The South Plains College men’s and women’s cross country teams both finished in the top 10 at the 2017 NJCAA Men’s and Women’s Half Marathon Championship.
The NJCAA Half Marathon Championships were held on Nov. 18 in Topeka, Kansas, at the Lake Shawnee and Bettis Family Sports Complex.
The Texans placed second overall with a team time of 3:34:07.8, finishing behind Iowa Central.
“Our men ran as well as they could going into the race,” explained Erik Vance, head track and field coach at SPC. “They ran smart races, and Felix ran a great tactical race. But we just got beat by some great people who were better than us that day.”
Sophomore All-American Felix Kosgei led the Texans and placed fourth overall out of 51 runners, posting a time of 1:09:54.4.
Freshman Andrew Bosquez placed seventh after putting up a time of 1:11:29.3, while freshman Filmon Beyene placed 10th after finishing with a time of 1:12:44.0.
Freshman Jesse Madrid finished 22nd after posting a time of 1:15:22.9, and freshman Erik Arambula finished 34th with a time of 1:19:46.0.
The Lady Texans placed third overall with a team time of 4:22:06.6.
“Our girls competed well in the race,” said Coach Vance. “We had multiple girls beat their personal best and show what they are capable of.”
Sophomore Seselia Dala led the Lady Texans, placing fourth overall out of 47 runners with a time of 1:23:58.1. Sophomore Leslie Romero placed seventh after posting a time of 1:27:14.0.
Sophomore Poro Gahekave finished 16th with a time of 1:30:54.5, and sophomore Caitlyn Mercer finished 22nd after putting up a time of 1:33:58.6.
Both the men’s and women’s teams also earned a top-10 spot in the 2017 NJCAA Cross Country National Championships, which was held Nov. 11 at the Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
The Texans placed third overall in the men’s 8k race with a total of 147 points and a team average of 25:27. Central Arizona placed second, and Iowa Central placed first.
“Overall, the men ran hard and competed well,” explained Vance. “I feel that we weren’t close enough, one through five, as a team. Iowa Central really showed the template for winning it all, and I believe we have to start strong in the top-25 and finish strong in the top-25.”
Vance also explained that he was proud of the team for their effort, as SPC has placed third at the National Championships for three consecutive years.
Kosgei led the Texans and placed fifth overall after posting a time of 25:06.5 out of a total of 320 runners.
Bosquez finished 13th for the Texans, putting up a time of 25:06.5. Madrid finished 26th after posting a time of 26:01.9, while Beyene finished the race 32nd with a time of 26:08.5.
Arambula finished the race 71st with a time of 26:54.9, while freshman Benjamin Ronoh finished 127th with a time of 27:33.6 and sophomore Leobardo Michel finished 246th with a time of 28:08.6.
The Lady Texans competed in the women’s 5k event, placing seventh overall with a score of 288 and an average team time of 19:21.
The Lady Texans were led by Romero, who placed fourth overall, with a time of 17:59.6 out of a total of 309 runners. Following Romero was Dala, who placed ninth after finishing with a time of 18:16.7.
Gahekave finished 22nd with a time of 18:54.1. Mercer finished 90th after posting a time of 20:05.8, and sophomore Agnes Abrocquah finished 189th overall with a time of 21:28.6.
“Our women’s team was fantastic competing,” said Coach Vance, “as we went in ranked No. 10 and finished seventh even with a fourth runner who was not a cross country runner. But all of the girls did great.”
The Texans ended their season with a third-place finish in the national championships and a NJCAA Regional Championship to boost confidence and build experience going into next year with a freshman-heavy team.
Kosgei finished his sophomore year at SPC winning every meet up until nationals, where he earned a top-10 spot.
“We are really being picky, as we are looking for only one or two guys to replace Felix as he leaves,” explained Coach Vance. “With the amount of great freshmen we have, we are looking for a guy to be our number one or even two for depth.”
The Lady Texans dominated throughout the season individually, as injuries caused them to be unable to score as a team in several meets. Going into nationals with a short-handed group, the Lady Texans still managed to clinch a top-10 spot.
The Lady Texans will be faced with the challenge of replacing a large portion of a sophomore team for 2018.
“We’re probably a little nervous about replacing an amazing group of girls on our women’s team,” said Coach Vance. “We are going to miss that group, as they aren’t easily replaceable. But we will continue to work on that.”
PHOTOS BY: DOM PUENTE