By Steve Holt, Opinion Editor
That was all that separated ACU from one of the most decorated Division I teams in history Saturday at the Cowboy Cross Country Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla.
The Wildcats placed all seven runners in the top-25, including four in the top 10, to finish second and score 38 points among primarily Division I teams at the Jamboree. Arkansas, the No. 2 team in Division I, placed first overall with 31 points and placed the top five runners in the top 12 positions.
Alfred Rugema was the top Wildcat, placing fourth in 24:06 on the eight-kilometer course. Bernard Manirakiza placed sixth with a time of 24:32, followed by John Kemboi in eighth (24:39), Arthe-mon Sindayigaya in ninth (24:41) and Martin O’Kello in 15th (24:51).
Juniors Nick Branen and Jean-Marie Ndikuma-na rounded out the top seven for ACU, placing 20th and 25th, respectively.
Head coach Jon Murray said the team made a nice run at Arkansas, but the frontrunner hasn’t completely recovered from past injuries.
“We always like to win, but I think we performed well as a group,” Murray said. “We ran with some of the best.”
“Alfred is still coming back from his injury last year, and he is about 15 seconds behind where he was two years ago.”
The women’s team finished 14th out of 18 teams, led by se-nior Angie Waters, who placed 47th in 19:12 on the five-kilometer course. Sophomore Cassie Chaffin placed 59th overall with a time of 19:32.
The Wild-cats placed just behind region rival Central Missouri, and Murray considers this a noteworthy accomplishment.
“We matched up very well with Central Missouri,” Murray said. “Right now we are right on target for getting to nationals. We just need to keep running together.”
The women’s cross country team will compete again Saturday at the Texas A&M Invitational in College Station, and the men’s team will have the weekend off.