For the second consecutive year, Peter Okwera will be a one-man Tennessee delegation at the NCAA cross country championships.
Okwera, a junior, earned his way Friday by finishing fifth at the NCAA South Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The top four finishers not on a qualifying team received an at-large berth to the NCAA championships on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind.
The Vols finished fifth in the team race with 181 points. Georgia was first with 72, followed by Florida (73), Florida State (101) and Auburn (117).
The Lady Vols finished ninth with 231 points. Florida State was first with 35, followed by Vanderbilt (116) and Alabama (143).
The two top teams from each race advanced. Thus, neither UT team qualified.
Okwera covered the 10,000-meter course in 29 minutes, 55.43 seconds. He improved one spot from last year’s finish.
The Uganda native then won 2012 All-America honors with a 30-place finish at the national meet.
“It was good to see Peter qualify for nationals,’’ J.J. Clark, UT’s director of track and field and cross country, said in a school release. “The (men’s) team had a better run than at the conference meet.’’
Daniel Tobin was 21st in 30:39.04 and Austin Whitelaw 22nd in 30:39.49 to earn all-region honors by placing in the top 25.
Sophomores Chelsea Blaase (20:19.83) and Alex Panisse (20:48.33) won all-region honors for the Lady Vols, finishing 10th and 22nd, respectively.
A year ago, Blaase finished 105th.
“Chelsea ran a gutsy race today and just missed out on qualifying for NCAAs,” said Clark. “Alexis came alive and had a solid finish.”