By Steve Holt, Opinion Editor
The ACU cross country team placed runners in the fifth, seventh and eighth positions at Saturday’s Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Ark., but were unable to hold off an Arkansas barrage of six runners in the race’s top 20 finishers. The Wildcats placed second with 61 points among 21 teams, while Arkansas took top honors with 48 points.
Senior Alfred Rugema was the top Wildcat finisher on the 10-kilometer course, placing fifth in 29:21. Sophomore Bernard Manirakiza continued his streak of being a top finisher, placing seventh in 29:36. Senior John Kemboi placed eighth in 29:47.
“Alfred ran just two seconds off his winning time of two years ago,” head coach Jon Murray said. “That just shows how fast this race was.”
Alabama’s David Kimani, who many consider the top runner in the nation, was the top individual with a time of 28:42. Arkansas’ Alistair Cragg finished just on Kimani’s heels in 28:46, followed by Oklahoma State’s Jason Woolhouse in third (28:59).
A main factor to Arkansas’ win was their domination of the10th-through-20th positions in the race. Razorback runners placed 11th, 13th, 16th and 18th, ahead of ACU’s fourth, fifth and sixth runners.
The ACU times dropped off considerably after Kemboi, as junior Arthemon Sindayigaya was the next Wildcat finisher in 30:35. Junior Jean-Marie Ndikumana placed 21st in 30:36, and junior Nick Branen finished 22nd in 30:40. Freshman Martin O’Kello was 44th for the Wildcats in 31:24.
“We didn’t run bad,” Murray said. “Three or four of them had personal bests. It was pretty much just us and them again, with a little help from Alabama and the Oklahoma State guy.”
The Wildcats look to be in good position to defend their Lone Star Conference title, however, at Saturday’s conference championship in Ada, Okla.
Both the men and women are favored to win their respective conference titles.