By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
Glancing at the results of Saturday’s Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival in Fayetteville, Ark., one might think the race took place somewhere in Africa. The top-10 finishers in the race hail from Africa. Eight are from Kenya, and one each from Uganda and Zambia.
Onlookers lucky enough to be in Fayetteville on Saturday witnessed the future of world track and field, as Arkansas senior all-American Josephat Boit led a pack of runners through a sub-4:30 first mile in the 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) race.
The Eldoret, Kenya, native came out ahead of many of his countrymen with a course record time of 28:27.6. ACU’s own Nicodemus Naimadu, the defending Division II national champion, placed second in the stacked field of runners with a time of 28:31.0. The top five runners in the race broke the former course record of 28:42, set by former Alabama star David Kamani in 2002.
“I was totally awed by Nicodemus,” Hood said. “He ran an incredibly fast race.”
Hood said he didn’t expect the course record to fall until he saw the lead pack, which included Naimadu, Boit and many of the nation’s top collegiate runners, surge with the two miles remaining. With a little less than a mile remaining, Naimadu and Boit surged again, but Boit came out on top.
“It was quite a race to witness,” Hood said.
ACU finished sixth in the team race behind four nationally ranked Division I teams. Arizona was second overall behind a strong third-place finish from all-American senior Robert Cheseret, Texas-El Paso was third, followed by Alabama in fourth and California in fifth.
Freshman Philip Birgen placed 23rd for the Wildcats with a time of 29:55.0, followed by freshman Serge Gasore in 36th (30:41.7). Freshman Alberic Nkurunziza was 67th in 31:44.7, and Martin O’Kello was 94th in 32.13.9.
ACU sophomore Olha Kryv’yak led the Wildcat charge in the women’s six-kilometer race, placing eighth overall in 20:55.6. Senior Trina Cox placed 24th with a time of 21:53.8, followed by Adeh Mwamba in 36th (21:53.8), Mary Mwangi in 122nd (23:37.6), and Abbie Waters in 151st (24:11.2).
“I thought Olha ran a very smart race,” Hood said. “She resisted going out with the lead group the first mile and it helped her maintain a very consistent pace throughout the race. She told me later she felt very flat early in the race, but she pushed on and placed ninth in a very tough D-I competition.”
Hood also expects Mwamba and Cox to run “breakthrough” races at the conference meet.
The ACU women placed 11th in the team race. Oklahoma State ran away with the competition with 64 points, followed by Arkansas (71), Baylor (82), Wichita State (178), and Nebraska (220).
Both teams will attempt to defend their Lone Star Conference titles Saturday in Weatherford, Okla.