WKU Cross Country teams hoping for top-five at regional meet

Mercedes Trent

There is no “magic secret” up the sleeves of WKU’s cross country teams as they head into the NCAA Southeast Regional this Saturday at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville.

The men’s team is currently ranked ninth in the region with the women’s teams entering the weekend at 11th — a “starting point,” said Head Coach emeritus Curtiss Long. 

Long said the team ultimately wants to place in the top five in order to secure a bid to the NCAA Championship. 

“We need to put ourselves in a position to get the best finish we could possibly get,” Long said. “And then (we) just see if on that day (we) can get the job done.”

Senior Deus Rwaheru, who Long hopes will go on to compete individually if the team falls short of the top five mark, is a “true 10K runner,” Long said. Rwaheru will have to place in the top ten to move on to nationals. 

Lady Topper senior Marion Kandie, who went on to compete individually in nationals last year, also will look to have a strong performance in regionals this weekend to send her back to the championships.

Long said that while he recognizes freshmen Peter Okwera and David Mokone, along with junior Kyle Chettleburgh, as middle distance runners, he hopes that eventually freshman Sean Hurd will develop into a 10K runner. 

“This is what we’ve been training for,” Long said. “This is the race.”

Hurd, who has never before competed in a 10K race, acknowledged it will be an “adjustment” for himself and the other two freshmen. 

“We’re going to need a different way to approach the race,” Hurd said. “We need to run more conservatively.”

Long expects the meet to be a larger one, with at least 30 full teams. 

He said the middle three runners — Okwera, Mokone, Hurd — should shoot for the top 25, and the fifth runner, Chettleburgh, would do well by placing in the top 100.

Chettleburgh said both the men’s and women’s teams can carry their effort from the Sun Belt Championships — where each team placed first — into regionals to be successful. 

“It’s going to be a tough one,” Chettleburgh said. “But if we have a good day, I think we’re going to surprise people.”

Since the teams ran the course earlier this season, Chettleburgh said the teams are looking forward to improving on their previous results and have put in “some good quality workouts” to do so. 

Long said the key to regionals will be “holding on” for the extra 1.2 miles.

“You get to the stage when you think you can’t run anymore, you’re at the right spot,” Long said. 

Last year the women’s team placed 11th in regionals, with the men’s team coming in at 22nd. 

Though he knows the race will be tough, Hurd said he’s optimistic. 

“I think it’s something we can handle,” Hurd said. “We’ll meet the challenge.”