By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
Junior Loice Cheboi won her second-straight Lone Star Conference championship, and junior Serge Gasore picked up his first LSC title as they both helped the women’s and men’s ACU cross country teams successfully defend their LSC titles on Saturday.
Cheboi’s time of 22:04.23 led the women to their seventh- straight, and Gasore’s time of 24:47.79 led the men to their 17th-straight title.
Head coach Derek Hood said the men, running without three-time national champion senior Nicodemus Naimadu, stepped up.
“I guess you could say that was the most rewarding part – how our team responded to not having your top runner there,” Hood said. “Nobody panicked, and nobody was concerned about it, they just went out there and picked up the slack.”
Close behind Gasore’s titlewining time was junior Julius Nyango, who finished second with a time of 24:47.82, freshman Amos Sang, who finished third with a time of 24:50.04 and senior Phillip Birgen, who finished with a time of 24:58.65.
Hood said he was most impressed with the performance of senior Eric Brown, who ran in Naimadu’ s spot. Brown finished 13th on the 8-kilometer course with a time of 26:44.38, a finish that Hood said sealed ACU’s victory.
“He really stepped up big for the team since Nicodemus wasn’t there,” Hood said. “He ensured we would win our 17th straight, so Eric did a great job.”
On the women’s side, Cheboi led a list of ACU women that finished in the top 15 of the race.
Junior Mary Mwangi finished third with a time of 22:44.92, junior Hayley Garner finished seventh with a time of 23:33.10 and junior Vanessa Whittle finished 11th with a time of 23:51.68.
Hood said all four of the women showed improvement from last season, and Cheboi was unchallenged during the race.
“Loice went out from the very start of the race and established herself as the clear leader,” Hood said. “No one even attempted to go out with her; she led the entire race.”
Hood said Mwangi was in prime position to finish second, but slowed down because of breathing problems and finished strong for third.
ACU’s next meet will be the NCAA Division II South Central Regional meet in Joplin, Mo., – a meet both the men and women won in 2006.
The meet will be the final meet before the NCAA Division II National Championships on Nov. 17, also in Joplin, Mo., and at the last leg of the season, Hood said the key to ACU’s victory is keeping his team in running health.
“We just need to keep everyone healthy,” Hood said.