TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - - Belmont University men's cross country senior Kaleb McLeod (Soperton, Ga.) will represent the Bruin program at the 2019 NCAA Cross Country Championships Saturday.
McLeod made history at the NCAA South Region meet Nov. 15 in Tallahassee, Florida, joining William Kemey as just the second Belmont distance runner to earn multiple individual entries to nationals and earn USTFCCCA All-South Region honors four consecutive seasons.
The senior placed 13th, and was on the proverbial "NCAA bubble" as nationally-ranked Ole Miss and Middle Tennesse secured automatic team entry. But when Alabama received at-large team entry, McLeod earned the fourth and final individual entry (of non-team qualifiers) from the south region. Belmont director of cross country and track & field Jeff Langdon characterizes McLeod's home stretch in the south region 10K as among the most impressive in recent memory.
"I've learned to never count Kaleb out," Langdon reflects. "It was a challenging race, and Kaleb didn't have the luxury of teammates in the lead pack as other runners did. Coming down the closing 400 meters, Kaleb and I suspected that an NCAA berth would require a strong close. And for him to finish, hold off and pass contenders in the manner he did, speaks volumes to his heart and commitment. Kaleb is an outstanding representative of Belmont and our cross country program, and we could not be more proud of his achievement."
Last year in arctic conditions at the University of Wisconsin, McLeod outdueled runners from Princeton, Purdue and Ole Miss to finish in 32:14.1.
"I learned a lot from nationals last year," McLeod told belmontbruins.com. "The race was unlike any other race I have been in, and I was caught off guard with the amount of talent that was in the race. It was a great learning experience for me and something that I've thought about ever since I crossed the line last year. I'm thankful that I get the opportunity to get out there and attack it this year; I just want to go out there and beat as many people as I can and leave knowing that I left it all on the course."
Belmont, which ranks ninth in the current USTFCCCA south region poll, has earned nine national entries via five runners in the program's NCAA Division I era.
The men's race is scheduled to start at 12:15 p.m. ET/11:15 a.m. CT from the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. Live video and updates will be provided via FloTrack.
A History of Belmont Men's Cross Country NCAA Individual Qualifiers