By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The accomplishments continued to rise for the Tennessee Tech cross country teams with the conclusion of the Greater Louisville Classic Saturday, as the men's team claimed its highest finish ever at the event and Purity Sanga broke the program record for the 5K for the third straight week.
"I thought both teams raced solid today," head coach Wayne Angel said. "We continue to see improvement, which is always a good thing. I thought we could have raced better, but we were at a disadvantage because we were unable to do our normal race routine. We arrived at the course late and were not permitted to get on the course and familiarize ourselves."
Amidst some of the stiffest competition in the nation, the men's team placed sixth with a total of 205 points, 30 less than the seventh-place squad, Bowling Green. The effort came from a trio of career performances and all five Golden Eagles finishing in the top-55 among the more than 250 racers.
"We still had some positives from today's efforts," Angel explained. "The men finished in the top-10, their highest finish ever, and they had a very close spread between the first and fifth man. If we continue this trend we will be in a good position when the OVC Championships roll around."
Leading that effort, by a hair, was junior Benard Sigei, who narrowly edged fellow junior and teammate Brannon Cheplak for the top spot among the Tech participants. Sigei turned in a career day, clocking in at 24:36.2, the 10th fastest 8K in program history.
Cheplak crossed the finish line just a step behind his teammate, finishing with a time of 24:36.5, his best showing of the season and the 11th quickest in school history. Only his performance of 24:27.5 at the adidas® Pre-Nationals last season was better. Segei placed 28th overall while Cheplak finished 29th.
Another Tech runner to blaze the trail faster than he had ever before was sophomore Ababu Mohammed. The youngster turned in his first career sub-25-minute 8K, completing his day with a time of 24:56.3 to place 50th overall and third among the Golden Eagles.
Finishing just a hair behind, with a personal-best time of 24:56.9, was freshman Gabriel Kiprono. The rookie also was a just a place behind his teammate, finishing 51st as part of a pack of three Golden Eagles.
Rounding out that pack was sophomore Sammy Kipkirui. The Kapsabet, Kenya native captured the third quickest performance in an 8K in his career, posting a final time of 24:58.6 to place 52nd.
On the women's side, Sanga continued her dominant start to the 2018 campaign, just barely passing her mark for the fastest 5K in history set just one week ago. After demolishing her previous school record by more than 39 seconds with a time of 16:41.58 last week, the Kapsabet, Kenya native turned in a performance of 16:41.3.
Leading the team for the fourth straight week, Sanga earned her fourth consecutive top-three showing overall, placing third among the field of over 225 athletes.
"The ladies raced well as a team," Angel added. "I was very pleased with their effort. I continue to see improvement every time out. Purity was amazing today. She continues to push the envelope to be great. Had she not lost her way on the course, I believe she would have run under 16:40". Now we get next week off, so we will get back and work on the things that will help us to reach the next level."
A pair of freshman were the next to cross the finish line for the Golden Eagles, finishing 52nd and 53rd. Freshman Janet Kwambai completed the race with a time of 18:06.4, the second fastest of her young career. Fellow freshman Sharon Chepkemboi was right on her teammate's heels, turning in a time of 18:09.5, also her second-fastest mark.
Next on the docket for the Golden Eagle teams from a competition standpoint is an Oct. 12 trip to Tallahassee, Fla. And the FSU Invitational.
Photo by Thomas Corhern