WKU women win fifth straight Sun Belt cross country title; men fourth

Junior Marion Kandie rounds a turn at Kereiakes Park during the Sun Belt Cross Country Championships Saturday. Kandie won the 5K with a time of 17:34.2

Sam Osborne

The WKU Cross Country team used a home course to its advantage Saturday morning at the 2010 Sun Belt Cross Country Championships at Kereiakes Park.

The Lady Toppers won their fifth straight conference title, while the Toppers placed fourth out of 11 teams.

“Both teams did an outstanding job,” Head Coach Erik Jenkins said. “The women stayed very focused and steady through the entire race. The men came in focused and did their absolute best.”

Freshman Shadrack Kipchirchir and junior Marion Kandie both clinched individual titles. Kipchirchir clocked a time of 24:33.1, while Kandie finished with a time of 17:34.3.

Kandie set a new personal record on the course, and said she was pleased with the team’s showing.

“I’m very proud,” Kandie said. “I wasn’t sure if I would win the individual championship. I was just doing my best.”

WKU had the top two finishers in both races, with senior Vasity Chemweno placing second with a time of 17:43.5 and junior Deus Rwaheru taking second in the men’s 8k race with a time of 24:52.7.

Though a conference championship isn’t anything new for the women’s team, sophomore Monica Akello, who finished 19th in the women’s race, said the title felt as great as ever.

“It feels like long, everlasting joy,” Akello said.

Kipchirchir, who has led the Toppers throughout the season, said an individual title was never in doubt.

“I was expecting it,” Kipchirchir said. “I knew I could do it. I’m very proud of it, and very proud of how the whole team did.”

With the Sun Belt Championships over, the Toppers will now focus to the NCAA Regionals, which take place in Louisville Nov. 13.

Kipchirchir said the race will pose a challenge for him because the course is two kilometers long in length. Despite the difficulty, Kipchirchir said he is excited for the test.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it though. I’m going to prepare these next two weeks, because I really want to qualify for nationals.”

Jenkins said he couldn’t have been more pleased with how the teams came out and performed.

“This is about as good as it gets,” Jenkins said. “I’m very thankful and truly blessed to have these student athletes and coaches.”