By Steve Holt, Staff Writer
As expected, the men’s and women’s cross country teams dominated their competition Friday in the opening meet of the 2003 season, the ACU Classic at Sherrod Park. The women placed all five runners in the top 15 finishers, winning with 27 points, compared to 59 scored by second-place South Plains College. Wildcat men filled five of the top six positions in the race, scoring a near-perfect 17 points to place first.
First-year runner Yuliya Stashkiv of Ukraine placed first in the women’s race, overcoming runner-up Adeh Mwamba of South Plains, who led with a fast pace the first mile. Senior Justine Nahimana placed third in the race for the ACU women, who are ranked third in the South Central Region and 24th nationally. Sophomore Abbie Waters placed fourth in the race, followed by freshman Crystal Berndt in fifth.
Head coach Jon Murray said he thought Stashkiv’s win was good for the Ukraine native, who Murray predicts will easily break 17 minutes in a five-kilometer race this season.
“Being able to run in front of the home crowd was nice,” Murray said. “I think it should give her some confidence that she’s in shape and can handle some good competition.”
Friday’s race was the first collegiate competition for Berndt, a former high school standout in Rye, Colo.
“I was a little nervous,” said Berndt, who ran 19:57.28 over the 3-mile course. “I think the adrenaline helped out. The team is really great, and I really felt good about it.”
Junior Bernard Manirakiza won his third straight ACU Classic for the men’s team, which placed six runners in the race’s top-10 finishers. Manirakiza’s time of 20:02.78 was the third-fastest time ever on the 4-mile Sherrod Park course, Murray said.
“[Manirakiza] is probably the highlight of them all, but all of them looked good,” Murray said.
Senior Arthemon Sindayigaya placed second in 20:28.78, followed by junior Martin Okello in 20:39.83 (3rd), senior Nick Branen in 21:02.26 (5th), and senior Jean-Marie Ndikumana in 21:17.44 (6th). Senior Justin Thompson and freshman Seth Patterson placed ninth and 17th, respectively, for the Wildcats.
Murray praised both teams for their composure Friday.
“I think they handled the competition very well,” Murray said. “Across the board, I think everybody looked good. It showed they did some work over the summer, and I was just real proud of the effort everybody had.”