By Layne Weitzel, TTU Sports Information
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – With the OVC Championship races on the horizon, sophomore Gilbert Boit and freshman Purity Sanga have been recognized by the Ohio Valley Conference for their efforts all season on the cross country course.
Boit and Sanga, who were honored at Friday night's championship banquet, received the titles of Ohio Valley Conference Men's Athlete of the Year and Women's Freshman of the Year respectively.
Boit is the first male runner in Tech history to be named the conference athlete of the year, while Sanga is the first to earn Women's Freshman of the Year.
"We are thrilled and excited for Gilbert," said head Coach Wayne Angel. "He has accomplished what no other male distance runner has accomplished in the history of Tennessee Tech cross country.
"He is having a phenomenal season so far. It is truly an honor for him to be recognized by the coaches of the Ohio Valley Conference as Athlete of the Year. What Gilbert has done as an individual and as a team player is just incredible. He has done Tennessee Tech and the city of Cookeville proud."
"We are so proud of and excited for Purity," said Angel. "She has had a tremendous impact on our program and in the OVC with her performances. She has proven to be an absolute team player. Purity has exceeded our expectations in every way. Her being honored as OVC Freshman of the Year by the coaches in the conference is truly high praise for a very deserving young lady."
Poised for another spectacular year at Tech after his standout freshman season, Boit opened 2017 easily defending his title at the Golden Eagle Invitational. His time of 18:52.8 was just over 47 seconds fastest than the second-place finisher, an Auburn runner.
Boit would win the next two meets of the season to collect a three-meet win streak. His individual title at the Mountain Dew Invitational in a time of 24:30.9 put him at sixth all-time in Tech's record books for the 8000 meters and helped the Tech men to a second-place finish in their first-ever appearance at the meet.
At the Sam Bell Invitational the following week, Boit edged out two more Power Five competitors in a time of 24:39.59 to put him at seventh-fastest all-time at Tech.
In mid-October, his 19th-place finish at the Pre-National Invitational with a time of 23:29.6 marked a career-best 8k time by 30.1 seconds and a new Tech school record.
After this year's regular-season competition, Boit now owns eight of Tech's top-10 fastest 8k times, including all top-five marks. He was named OVC Runner of the Week three times this season to total five such honors in his Tech career.
Boit has been a key cog in helping Tech stay in the USTFCCCA South Region rankings throughout the year. The Golden Eagles have been ranked as high as 10th, which tied Tech's highest-ever program ranking.
He will look to repeat as the OVC individual champion at the OVC Championship Saturday morning in Charleston, Illinois.
Sanga debuted in purple and gold at the Commodore Classic in Nashville, placing sixth overall with a 5k time of 17:38.1. Her time marked the third-fastest 5k in Tech history, while her sixth-place finish stood as the highest placement ever by a Tech female runner at the meet.
The following weekend at the Mountain Dew Invitational, Sanga placed third in the 32-team field with a 17:46.8 time, the fifth-fastest mark in Tech 5k history. She followed that up with a 38th-place finish at Pre-Nationals, timing 21:52.4 in Tech's first 6k of the season.
Sanga enters Saturday's OVC Championship with the fifth-quickest time in the OVC this season (her 17:38.1 mark at the Commodore Classic).
Eastern Illinois' Dustin Hatfield won Men's Freshman of the Year, while Charlotte Imer of Eastern Kentucky earned the title of Women's Athlete of the Year.