The Colby Community College women’s cross country team won the Jayhawk Conference western division championship and the men finished third at the Region VI meet Saturday in Hutchinson.
Freshman Winnie Kibet was the overall meet champion with a time of 18:28:54, smashing the 5K course record by over 35 seconds. For the men, freshman Abel Ketema was the top finisher for the Trojans, placing ninth overall with a time of 26:53.69 on the 8K course.
According to head coach Cameron Rieth, the course was not for the faint of heart, as it had uneven ground, many turns, and no wind blocks.
“The course and conditions are nothing new in a typical Kansas day and nothing we haven’t experienced before,” he said. “In fact, it may have played to our advantage if we went in with the right mindset.”
Despite the circumstances Kibet and Allen County’s Kaitlyn Shoemaker (18:39.06) are the first in course history to finish in under 19 minutes.
“Even though Winnie is the most soft-spoken person I have ever met, she is a fierce competitor,” Rieth said. She was not the favorite to win but as soon as the gun fired she took the race out at a blistering pace. I could not be prouder of her growth as a runner and her confidence in herself.”
Freshman Sharon Kimutai (20:06.36) finished eleventh and sophomore Sarah Myers (20:06.94) finished twelfth.
“I think Sarah thrives whenever the conditions are not in her favor. She was only seven seconds off her personal best when most people were forty-five seconds to a minute slower.”
Alane McWillams (20:58.29) and Jess Ixta (21:01.93), 31st and 33rd respectively, rounded out the CCC scoring.
As a team, the Lady Trojans secure their first conference title since 2012 and highest region finish (3rd) in the last 10 years.
The Trojan men finished third in the Jayhawk Conference and fifth in the region.
“Coming into the meet we had many things going against us,” said Rieth. “We had some unfortunate last-minute injuries that caught up to us. However, we still competed well in a tough race on a tough course.”
Rieth added that the competition was strong from top to bottom.
“The teams were that close to one another and we knew it was going to be a dogfight. Our guys responded.”
Ketema’s finish garnered All-Region VI and All-Jayhawk West honors. Isaac Sanchez (28:02.13) finished second among the Trojans. Rieth said Claudius Russell, perhaps known best for his mid-distance efforts on the track, ran the “meet of his life” at 28:30.73 and had the third best CCC time. Oscar Leyva (28:46.23) and an injured Iley Bruce (29:04.53) rounded out the scoring for the Trojans.
“We are excited about how our kids competed but we can’t live on what we have done in the past. We need to get rested up and then begin our final preparations for nationals right away.”
The NJCAA Division I Cross Country Championships take place November 12 at Prairie Trails Golf Course in El Dorado.