RICHMOND — Even with its No. 2 and No. 3 runners out Saturday, Eastern Kentucky romped to a sixth consecutive Ohio Valley Conference men's cross country championship.
With the NCAA Southeast Regional looming in two weeks, EKU Coach Rick Erdmann rested Ben Cheruiyot and Peter Kosgei.
That still left Soufiane Bouchikhi, OVC Male Runner of the Year, to lead EKU to a 1-2-4-5-6 finish at the Arlington Club. The Colonels totaled 18 points and put two non-scorers in the top 10.
The distant runner-up, Eastern Illinois, edged Southeast Missouri State 62-65. Morehead State placed fourth in the 10-team field.
Eastern Kentucky's Lydia Kosgei won the women's race, but Eastern Illinois knocked off the five-time defending team champions 41-57.
"We were just trying to get through this meet," said Erdmann, who was voted OVC men's Coach of the Year for the 18th time. "It was a very challenging course and we're just glad to win."
EKU swept the top five men's places last year.
"The idea was to try to run together for three miles," Erdmann said. "Evans (Kiptoo) was going to set the tempo and we were going to stay with him, and that's where it fell apart. So the strategy didn't work as well as I'd hoped."
Kiptoo, NCAA all-regional last year, was EKU's eighth runner Saturday, 15th overall. He is still recovering from a race two weeks earlier, when he lost a shoe a mile into a five-mile race.
Bouchikhi, a sophomore from Belgium, called the Arlington Club "a really tough course. Challenging. Maybe the toughest I've run until now here in the U.S." Yet he all but used cruise control in defending his individual title. Colonels have won the last eight individual OVC titles.
"Of course you always feel some kind of pressure because you're the favorite. ... We're ranked 17th in the nation now," Bouchikhi said. "But it's still OVC. That's the only meet of the year where we can kind of relax, so that was pretty good."
Tucked close by for most of the race was Adams Ronnoh, a sophomore from Kenya who wasn't even in EKU's top eight last season.
Bouchikhi completed the 8,000-meter course in 24 minutes, 54.83 seconds. Ronnoh came in at 25:20.77.
Preventing an EKU sweep, in third, was Southeast Missouri junior Nathan Shipley.
Then came EKU's David Mutuse, Thijs Nijhuis (OVC male Freshman of the Year) and Daniel Jones.
"The weather was a bit cold, but we tried to run as a group to the third mile and then, after that, we had to pick it up," Ronnoh said. "The race went as planned. ... It was great teamwork, and we are impressed by the results."
The team title was EKU's 20th in the 50 seasons of OVC men's competition.
EKU also was shooting for its 26th title in the 33rd year of the women's event.
But 2010 runner-up Eastern Illinois moved up. The Panthers also won in 2001.
"One of our main goals we set forth for ourself was to try and fit our five, hopefully six, in front of their fifth," said Erin Howarth, Eastern Illinois' coach and OVC women's Coach of the Year. "We were able to put six in front of their fourth today. We knew they had their 1-2 (individuals) and we knew if we could keep our spread right around 30 seconds that (EKU has) been closer to a minute all year, and we did that today."
Kosgei, a senior from Kenya and OVC female Runner of the Year, won the 5,000-meter race in 17:43.69.
"I didn't have any pressure because I knew I was going to win it anyway," Kosgei said. "I had the best time (coming in) ... so I was so confident."
Jacksonville State freshman Giselle Slotboom kicked past the 2009 OVC champion, EKU's Picoty Leitich, to place second in 18:00.58.
Erika Ramos and Olivia Klaus gave Eastern Illinois the 4-5 spots. The key for the Panthers, though, may have been senior Caitlin Napoleoni in seventh, an improvement of eight spots from a year ago.
Erdmann was pleased with his top three of Kosgei, Leitich and Ann Eason.
Overall, though, "It is very disappointing. I think we ... weren't competitive. And I credit Eastern Illinois because they were very aggressive and came after us."
Eason, a freshman out of Sayre, wound up ninth.
"I had some high goals, but I'm happy with it," she said. "I ran kind of close to what I ran at Louisville, which is a lot flatter course."
Men's teams — EKU 18; Eastern Ill. 62; Southeast Mo. St. 65; Morehead 149; Tenn. Martin 159; Jacksonville St. 164; Tenn. Tech 175; Austin Peay 201; Tenn. St. 280; Murray 316.
Individuals (8,000 meters) — Soufiane Bouchikhi (EKU) 24:54.83; Adams Ronnoh (EKU) 25:20.77); Nathan Shipley (SEMO) 25:32.54; David Mutuse (EKU) 25:34.25; Thijs Nijhuis (EKU) 25:39.46; Daniel Jones (EKU) 25:42.63; Bradley LaRocque (EIU) 25:44.93; Alex Dreyer (EKU) 25:58.69; Musa Kumuli (EKU) 26:05.21; Brent Collins (SEMO) 26:05.21; Bryce Basting (EIU) 26:11.35; Colin Johnson (UTM) 26:12.04; Matt Feldhake (EIU) 26:15.35; Danny Delaney (EIU) 26:21.13; Evans Kiptoo (EKU) 26:33.76.
Women's teams — Eastern Ill. 41; EKU 57; Southeast Mo. St. 88; Jacksonville St. 103; Murray 116; Morehead 142; Austin Peay 161; Tenn. Martin 206; Tenn. Tech 223; Tenn. St. 321.
Individuals (5,000 meters) — Lydia Kosgei (EKU) 17:43.69; Giselle Slotboom (JSU) 18:00.58; Picoty Leitich (EKU) 18:09.00; Erika Ramos (EIU) 18:18.72; Oliva Klaus (EIU) 18:25.83; Rebekah Lawson (SEMO) 18:29.51; Caitlin Napoleoni (EIU) 18:35.02; Carolyne Tanui (Murray) 18:37.23; Ann Eason (EKU) 18:37.81; Xiamar Richards (APSU) 18:41.49; Britney Whitehead (EIU) 18:41.99; Jenny Govero (SEMO) 18:42.61; Kailey Jensen (JSU) 18:43.53; Gaby Duenas (EIU) 18:44.44; Megan Gingerich (EIU) 18:48.81.