Record-Courier staff report
Kent State University senior standout Michael Heller (Stow) will represent the Golden Flashes at the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships today. The championships will be held at E.P. 'Tom' Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky., with the University of Louisville serving as the host institution.
After finishing 10th (31:07) at last Friday's NCAA Great Lakes Regional in Madison, Wis., Heller was confident that he would receive an one of the meet's four individual automatic qualifying spots in the national meet. However, he had to wait until Saturday morning to get the final word when the NCAA released the official field of participants.
Heller has already competed at the course once this season. The NCAA Pre-Nationals back on Oct. 13. Heller ran in the 'Black Unseeded' race, completing the course in 24:22.8 to finish fifth.
Consistency has been the key for Heller this season. He has placed in the top 10 in all six meets and last week was the first time he failed to finish in the top 5. After beginning the season with a pair of first-place finishes at the Tommy Evans Invitational and the Iona Meet of Champions, Heller was runner-up at the All-Ohio Championships.
Heller will be the only MAC runner competing in the men's race this weekend.
One of the most-decorated runners in Kent State history, Heller's 10th-place finish a week ago earned him all-region accolades. Kent State had just three previous all-region performers and Aiman Scullion was the most recent in 2009. Just a few weeks ago, Heller became the first Kent State student-athlete--male or female--to be a four-time all-conference performer in cross country.
Today marks the first time the Flashes have had a male participant at the national meet since Jim Loveless in 1991.
Heller aims to add All-America honors by finishing in the top 40 in the field of 255 runners on Saturday. Kent State boasts seven All-Americans in the history of its program. Jim Loveless was the last Golden Flash to do so, finishing 19th in 1991. Four Kent State runners have finished among the top 10 at the championships with Pierre Lorandeau's 6th-place finish in 1964 being the best in school history.