Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech wins the mens race at the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships (© Kirby Lee)
18 November 2012 - Louisville, USA – Kenyans Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech University and Betsy Saina of Iowa State were the men’s and women’s winners in course record times at the NCAA Cross Country championships at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park on Saturday (17).
Kithuka won with a solo effort in the men’s 10K race in 28:28 while Saina notched a dramatic homestretch victory over Abbey D’Agostino of Dartmouth College and Jordan Hasay of the University of Oregon to win the women’s 6km 19:27.
First NCAA title for Kithuka
Kithuka pulled away steadily over the last three kilometres from the Arizona duo of Stephen Sambu and Lawi Lalanga to win his first NCAA title. It was the third national Cross Country title for Kithuka, a junior transfer from Wayland Baptist who won the 2010 and 2011 NAIA titles.
On Saturday, Kithuka wore the same spikes with which he won his NAIA titles and plans to run in them again in 2013 in defense of his NCAA title.
Sambu, a senior, finished second in 28:38 and 2011 champion Lalang, a sophomore who had been undefeated during his collegiate career, was third in 28:51. Kithuka, Sambu and Lalang were the only runners under 29 minutes over the bumpy grass multi-loop course.
Sambu and Lalang became the first two runners from the same school to finish among the top three of the NCAA championships since 2005.
Kithuka, Sambu and Lalang shared the lead through the first five kilometres before Kithuka built a three-second lead shortly after the four-mile point and to seven seconds with a mile to go. Kithuka ran the final homestretch with both arms outstretched in victory.
“The last one-K, I was just relaxing,” Kithuka said. “I knew that I’ve got it now.”
Saina outduels D’Agostino and Hasay
Saina wasn’t sure she had won the women’s race until the senior had crossed the finish line. In fact, Saina wasn’t sure where the finish line was until she approached the homestretch with D’Agostino and Hasay by her side with 400 metres to go.
“I didn’t know where the finish line was,” Saina said. “And then all of a sudden, it came to my mind, `Oh my gosh, that’s the finish line.’ I started sprinting. My body was feeling really good throughout the whole race. I knew it was going to be a tight race.”
Saina won by two steps over reigning NCAA 5000m champion De’Agostino and Hasay, who were timed in identical marks of 19:28.
Oregon women and Oklahoma State men take team Ttitles
Hasay’s third place finish and eighth place finish of senior Alexi Pappas lifted the Oregon women to 114-183 victory over Providence for the Ducks’ first national title since 1987. It was the third top three finish for Hasay, a senior who placed third in 2010 and second in 2011. Stanford was third with 198 and Florida State was fourth with 202.
The Oklahoma State men won their third title in four years with a 72-135 triumph over Wisconsin. The Cowboys had two runners among the top 10 with senior Girma Mescheso in fifth and junior Tom Farrell in ninth. Colorado was third with 158 points and Northern Arizona was fourth with 191.
Kirby Lee for the IAAF