By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
The latest additions to the men’s cross country team wasted no time making a positive impact, just weeks after arriving in the United States for the first time.
Kenyan Nicodemus Naimadu and Burundian Laurent Ngirakamaro placed seventh and 12th, respectively, at the Oklahoma State University Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla., helping the Wildcat men to a third-place team finish. Senior Bernard Manirakiza was ACU’s top runner Saturday, placing fourth with a time of 24:20 over the 8,000-meter course, but the immediate contributions of Naimadu and Ngirakamaro against mainly Division I competition were the story of the day. Naimadu finished the race in 24:27, followed by Ngirakamaro, who ran 24:48.
“They are talented young men,” said head coach Jon Murray. “They handled everything real well – the newness of everything, the training.”
Junior Martin O’Kello was slowed down by a strained calf, but he still managed to finish 22nd in 25:11. Transfer Lucky Hadebe rounded out the top five with a 36th-place finish, completing the course in 25:49.
The women’s team finished 10th overall, led by another fast race by transfer Adeh Mwamba. Mwamba continued to show why she is expected to be a contender for an individual national title, placing third overall in the competitive field. Mwamba finished the 5,000-meter course in 17:44, a season best for that distance. Sophomore Olha Kryv’yak was again the No. 2 runner for the Wildcats, finishing 20th in 18:30. Transfer Trina Cox was 49th overall in 19:18, followed by Denise Morgan and Mollye Stanford in 95th place and 103rd place, respectively. Cox said she was disappointed with her race, but that the team performed well as a whole, despite race-time conditions that were about 30 degrees cooler than most of the ACU athletes are used to.
“It was a good race, good competition,” said Cox, who recently transferred from Santa Rosa Community College in California. “As a whole team, we did just fine, considering the weather, the competition.”
The Arkansas men were the team champions Saturday, while the Texas Tech women took top honors.
The Wildcat women are still hurt by the absence of junior Abbie Waters, who has been hampered by a nagging injury all season. Cox said that in addition to getting Waters back as the team’s No. 4 runner, the Wildcat women will have to do a few more things to earn a berth to the Division II national championships.
“I think to get to nationals we’re going to have to work hard as a team and pass more people off,” Cox said. “We just have to beat as many people as we can.”
The men’s team seems to be on track to win its fifth consecutive South Central Regional title and earn its eighth total top-10 finish at the NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships, to be run in Evansville, Ind. Murray said the team’s apparent weakness after three meets is the time gap between the fourth and fifth runners.
“We’ve just got to get our fifth runner up there, either Lucky or [freshman] Vincent [Morogah]. We just have to keep packing them up toward our No. 1 runner,” Murray said. “Through three, we’re running with anyone.”
Neither ACU team will race Saturday, instead training in preparation for the Chile Pepper Festival on Oct. 16 in Fayetteville, Ark. The Chile Pepper likely will be the best competition either team will see all season, featuring many of the top teams in the nation.