NCAA Cross Country Championships: UK women boast two All-America finishes

mmaloney@herald-leader.comNovember 17, 2012 

LOUISVILLE — Cross country being a team sport, the Eastern Kentucky men were downcast after placing 24th Saturday in the NCAA Championships.

Cross country also being an individual sport, the Kentucky women were ecstatic to go 2-for-2 in All-America finishes at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park.

Cally Macumber placed sixth in the women's race, with Chelsea Oswald in 37th. The top 40 finishers are designated All-Americans.

"I really had no idea what to expect, and I was just going to go out and try to run my best," said Macumber, a junior. "I think I did that today."

Team titles went to the Oklahoma State men and Oregon women.

Texas Tech's Kennedy Kithuka won the men's 10,000-meter race in 28 minutes, 31.3 seconds. The first 11 finishers beat the course record.

Iowa State's Betsy Saina — like Kithuka, from Kenya — used a furious kick to snare women's 6,000-meter honors in a course-record 19:27.9.

As for EKU, the Colonels came into the meet ranked 17th in the nation.

Oklahoma State won its third title in four years, besting defending champion Wisconsin 72-135. Eastern finished 24th among 31 teams, scoring 522.

"I think they were disappointed," Colonels Coach Rick Erdmann said. "We've had some issues. Ben Toroitich didn't run and that kind of thing. I actually didn't think we were as competitive as we could have been or should have been."

Toroitich, who had challenged Soufiane Bouchikhi for the No. 1 spot on the team this season, was unable to run because of a leg injury.

EKU's best effort of the day, according to Erdmann, came from Wade Meddles. The junior placed 38th in 29:59.7. Bouchikhi, a step back in 30:02.6, placed 40th.

Meddles was part of a huge lead pack that ran a 4:32 first mile.

"I was telling myself I wasn't going to go out hard, but I was going to try to stay with Soufiane, our No. 1 guy," Meddles said. "So we came out in a (4:32) and I kind of thought to myself I've got to slow down a little bit. But ... it was all about staying calm and getting your heart back to normal, getting your breathing back. After I was able to do that and calm down a little bit, I was able to stay with guys who were (trying to pass) me and passing guys."

Another 4:32 mile thinned the lead group to six.

By four miles, Kithuka was alone. Arizona's Stephen Sambu had second. And defending champion Lawi Lalang of Arizona had third.

That's how they would finish, Sambu in 28:38.6 and Lalang in 28:51.8.

Then came Anthony Rotich of UTEP and Girma Mecheso of Oklahoma State.

Kithuka won back-to-back NAIA titles for Wayland Baptist before switching to Tech.

The first 11 finishers beat the course record of 29:30.7, set by Liberty's Josh McDougal at the 2007 NCAA Southeast Regional.

Ole Hesselbjerg was EKU's third runner, 138th overall, followed by Thijs Nijhuis (194) and Mads Taersboel (233).

Joseph Chebet, Western Kentucky's lone qualifier, earned All-America status in 35th (29:58.0).

Fellow senior Luis Orta, Kentucky's only entrant, was 114th (30:52.5).

"I'm happy. I'm done with my four years of cross country. Can't complain — I had an awesome season, awesome coaches, awesome teammates," said Orta, who still has outdoor track eligibility. "I didn't have the best race today but I'm still pretty happy because I gave it a good effort."

As did UK's two women.

"Our coach just told us to be sure to get out front and not get trapped in the back, so I just tried to do that," said Macumber, who finished in 19:42.2. "I felt good."

Hakon DeVries, an assistant to new UK coach Edrick Floreal, is in charge of women's distance runners.

"I think it sets a great tone for the rest of this founding year and just in the recruiting and everything," DeVries said. "Having a new staff, it was important to get to this first championship running, and I think we did that. We definitely put the rest of the NCAA kind of on notice that U of K is up-and-coming."

Oswald (20:14.5) "felt like I could have done better. But my last race, so I'm happy.

"My plan was to get out fast and get with the front and not get boxed in," the senior said. "Just see how it went from there."

Unlike the men, the women went down to the wire, the top three finishers separated by less than a second.

Saina clocked 19:27.9, trailed by Dartmouth's Abbey D'Agostino in 19:28.6 and Oregon's Jordan Hasay in 19:28.6.

The first four beat the course mark of 19:40.9, set by Villanova's Sheila Reid at the 2011 Big East Championships.

Hasay led Oregon's run to 114 points and its first title since 1987, well ahead of Providence's 183. Defending champ Georgetown placed 12th.

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com

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