Men Take Victory; Women Are Second
Paced by three runners in the top-10, the No. 5 Alabama men's cross country team added another Crimson Classic championship to its trophy case Saturday morning at the Harry Pritchett Running Course.
The Crimson Tide's five scorers in the 8-kilometer race all scored in the top-30 of the 148-runner field to finish with 57 points and easily defeat second-place Mississippi (78). Texas A&M (82) finished third followed by Auburn (82) and Kennesaw State (108) in the top five of the 18-team field.
All five Alabama women's cross country scorers finished in the top-20 but it wasn't enough to counter a strong showing by Texas A&M as the Aggies narrowly edged the Crimson Tide at Saturday's Crimson Classic on Alabama's Harry Pritchett Running Course.
Texas A&M finished with 53 points in the 5-kilometer race to defeat UA by just four points followed by Samford in third with 111. Auburn (130) and Tulane (157) also finished in the top five of the 19-team field. Auburn's Holly Knight won the women's race in 16:59.30, the second fastest time in course history.
"I was pleased with the way we raced today and the effort we gave," Alabama Men's Coach Joe Walker said. "Typically if we take care of that the outcome is favorable. The results were a little closer than I anticipated and Ole Miss had a great day. But I'm real pleased with our overall effort on a hot day on a tough course."
As start-time temperatures crept toward 90 degrees, Carison Kemei, competing in his first race for the Tide, turned in the squad's top finish coming in fourth with a time of 24:04.30. Joel Rop followed nearly a minute later in eighth place with a time of 25:03.80 with Moses Kiptoo on his heels in ninth with a 25:08.10 finish.
"My performance today was ok, but right now I still need to improve in terms of endurance," Kemei said. "I was pretty excited about the way the team performed today but I can see a lot of things that we know that we still need to improve before the Pre-National meet."
Walker added that Kemei's finish was what he expected from the NAIA All-American and that the pack he was competing against consisted of All-Americans and two-time Southeastern Conference champion Barnabas Kirui. Columbus State's Meshack Koyiaki won the men's race with a course-record time of 23:44.40.
Julius Bor finished in 12th for the Tide at 25:11.40 with Andrew Kirwa rounding out the scoring in 31st with a 25:55.80 finish. Austin Duckworth and Nathan Corder also finished in the top-50 coming in 39th and 40th with times of 26:23.90 and 26:25.40, respectively.
"We had some really gutsy efforts from a few guys that just aren't really there yet in their training," Walker said. "They competed hard even when they aren't at the optimal level. Moses [Kiptoo] and Andrew [Kirwa] are both coming off injuries this summer and this was a really good, tough race for those guys."
While Walker was certainly pleased with his squad finishing first, the meet served as another building block in the squad's training and gradual build up to the championship season.
"I think now we have a perspective and feel for where we're at as a team," Walker said. "This race just reinforces what I've been saying which is that we still have a lot of work to do."
The squad will have a week off from competition to continue its training before traveling north to South Bend, Ind., to compete in the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 1.
"I'm a little disappointed that we didn't win our home meet and our team will be disappointed about that," UA Women's Coach Randy Hasenbank said. "It was a close race with a very similar-ranked team in their region – I think they're [Texas A&M] fifth or sixth in their region and we're fifth in ours – so we knew it'd be a very competitive team race between the two schools."
The Tide was paced by junior Andrea Torske's fourth-place finish with a time of 17:28.20, a 5k personal best by more than a full minute for Torske. Leigh Gilmore finished eighth with a personal best 5k time of 17:39.10.
"Andrea Torkse and Leigh Gilmore have shown tremendous improvement from last year, maybe as much as a minute faster than their time from last year, which is fantastic," Hasenbank said. "Once we get Kelsey [Johnson] and a couple others up there running where they need to be and also get a little bit sharper I think we will be a competitive squad by the end for sure."
Torske, who has been the Tide's top runner in both races this season was able to use the course's terrain to her advantage as a veteran runner.
"On this course I mostly work to make sure I don't die on the hills, and then sprint back down the hills," Torske said. "I'm finally getting more used to college racing. I'm a lot less nervous before the race so I can really concentrate on running and not being nervous. It's just a matter of getting used to the whole atmosphere of college racing."
Kelsey Johnson finished in 13th with a time of 18:04.90 just ahead of teammate Katlyn Will in 14th at 18:06.20. Senior Haley Moody rounded out the scoring for UA in 18th place with an 18:14.90 finish. Elsbeth Denton and Dayle VanEss finished just outside the scoring for UA in 23rd and 31st, respectively.
The Tide will have a week off from competition to prepare for the prestigious Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 1 in South Bend, Ind.
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