by DOM PUENTE//Staff Writer
The South Plains College men’s and women’s cross country teams began the 2017 season with an impressive outing at the Texas Tech Open.
Erik Vance, head track and field coach at SPC, expressed his happiness to see how well his runners for both the men and women competed.
“Overall, I thought both teams did great to start the season,” Coach Vance said. “Our runners showed that they can compete with just about anyone as long as they continue to get better from here.”
Sophomore All-American Felix Kosegi, who is returning for his final season, led the Texans to a first-place finish with a time of 25:02.50 in the men’s 8k race, which was held Sept. 9 at Chapparal Ridge Golf Course in Lubbock.
“Felix is one of the top runners in college,” explained Coach Vance, “and he showed it pushing a professional athlete toward the end of the meet to finish second, yet finished first collegiately.”
Andrew Bosquez placed fifth for the Texans with a time of 25:57.10, while Benjamin Ronoh finished 18th with a time of 26:48.10.
Also competing for the Texans were Eric Arambula, who finished with a time of 27:52.40, Leobardo Michel, who finished with a time of 28:15.70, Jesse Madrid, who posted a time of 28:34.50 and Ulises Cardoza, who posted a time of 29:00.40.
“As for our freshmen runners, I thought they stepped up and performed well, along with our other returning sophomore Leobardo, who improved significantly from where he started last year,” said Coach Vance.
As a team, the Texans finished with 52 total team points, with an average team time of 26:47.16.
In the women’s competition, SPC placed fifth in the 5k race with an average time of 20:26.42 and a total of 116 points.
“I thought our girls competed well,” Coach Vance said. “The course seemed to be a little tougher on the women than the men, but they stepped up and put up solid times.”
Sophomore Seselia Dala finished 11th overall with a time of 19:00.50, and sophomore Leslie Romero finished 17th with a time of 19:21.70 out of 100 runners.
Also competing for the Lady Texans were sophomore Poro Gahekave, who finished with a time of 19:56.90, sophomore Caitlyn Mercer, who finished with a time of 20:47.00, and Agnes Abrocquah, who finished with a time of 23:06.00.
For the Texans and the Lady Texans, both teams will be looking to top their impressive 2016 season, which was capped by a pair of top 10 finishes at the NJCAA national meet.
Coach Vance explained that the goal is to be better every season. But with the amount of success achieved last season, winning nearly every meet except for nationals, it can be difficult.
“After seeing the guys compete the way they did this week, it has shown me that we can hit the ground running and move up to the second or third position in nationals,” explained Coach Vance.
The Texans will be competing this season with the task of defending their NJCAA Region V Championship from last season. That goal is more than possible with Kosegi as their top runner and an All-American a year ago. Kosegi led SPC to a third-place finish at the 2016 Cross Country National Championships in El Dorado, Kansas.
Competing against 298 runners, Kosegi placed fifth last year at the national meet with a time of 24:51.09. The Kenya native will lead the charge in hopes of bringing a national title back to SPC.
As for the Lady Texan cross country team, SPC is fortunate to have multiple veteran All-American returners in Dala, Romero and Gahekave.
“On the girls side, I feel that we need to be able to repeat what we did last year,” Coach Vance said, “and give our girls a chance to bump up a few spots in the national meet and possibly take a home a national title for the women as well.”
Experience will be a strength, as Dala placed 10th last year at the national meet as a freshman, while Romero finished 14th and Gahekave finished 22nd out of 313 runners.
Both men and women’s cross country teams will go on the road to compete in the New Mexico Highlands meet on Sept. 23.
[Photos by DOM PUENTE/PLAINSMAN PRESS]