By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The Oklahoma State men’s cross-country didn’t need a first-place finish from junior Shadrack Kipchirchir to win its third straight Cowboy Jamboree title. It was pretty much a given with all seven Oklahoma State runners finishing in the top 10.
But with Texas-El Paso’s Anthony Rotich right by his side, the junior from Eldoret, Kenya, found another gear and beat Rotich by .09 seconds with a time of 24:19.17 to claim the individual title Saturday on Oklahoma State’s home cross-country course.
“I knew he was right there with me,” Kipchirchir said. “I said ‘It’s not fair for him to take it at the finish line, so I made sure I sprinted to the end.”
“Shadrack is obviously very talented but extremely competitive,” Oklahoma State coach Dave Smith said. “Any time he sniffs a win, he goes for it. We got to the last 800 meters he really took off and went for it. He looked great finishing.”
Smith said he didn’t initially know who had won the race, but just seeing Kipchirchir being pushed to the limit had his heart racing.
“I like seeing that fight,” Smith said. “They fought back and fourth for the last 150 meters. The finish wasn’t certain until the finish line. He fought over and over again, holding off challenges from that guy from UTEP. It was good to see that.
“Cross country is not about times, it’s about competition, racing and beating the guys next to you, and I think we did that well today. If we keep doing that and getting better each week, we are going to be where we need to be at the end of the season.”
Along with Kipchirchir, Joseph Manilafasha finished third with a time of 24:35.29, while Girma Mecheso was fourth, finishing in 24:42.25. Fabian Clarkson was sixth with a time of 24.55.42, while Kirubel Erassa took ninth, finishing in 24:58.42. Brian Gohlke rounded out the top 10 with a time of 24:59.26.
Oklahoma State true freshman Craig Nowak, who ran unattached, also took fifth with a time of 24:49.20.
The Cowboys may have coasted to their third straight title, but it wasn’t as easy for the No. 23-ranked Cowgirls.
With 1,000 meters to go, it looked like Wichita State was going to dethrone Oklahoma State on its home course. But then came a few words of encouragement from Smith.
“With 1,500 meters to go, we were probably 15 to 20 points behind Wichita State,” Smith said. “I know they had four girls in front of our second. They probably didn’t realize it, and I let them know out there and they responded really well. Kate Kujawa kind of got on a rocket and rode that to the finish. She was flying those last 1,000 meters.”
Kujawa — a senior running in her last jamboree — finished seventh with a time of 18:07.20, but it was a sophomore who led the Cowgirls.
Monika Juodeskaite took third with a time of 17:25.71, improving on her 22nd-place finish during her freshman year.
“Compared to last year, this race felt so much easier,” Juodeskaite said. “This course is very hard if you’re running it for the first time. I was a freshman — it was so hard. It was probably the hardest race I ever had. This year, it felt so easy. It was really nice. I didn’t expect it to be so easy because this course can be so tough with so many hills.”
“Monika ran a very intelligent race and moved up all the way to third,” Smith said. “She’s light-years ahead of where she was last year, and she was even the Big 12 Freshman of the Year at the end of the year.”
Along with Kujawa and Juodeskaite, Jackie Campos finished tenth with a time of 18:14.88.
Both teams will return to the course on Oct. 13 when they travel to Fayetteville, Ark., for the Chile Pepper Invitational. Smith said that having competed in the jamboree should help both teams as they get ready for the rest of the season.
“This was the toughest course that we will run all year,” Smith said. “The second half of the race on this course is really hard on you mentally. If you’re starting to have any kind of fatigue or negative feelings, they start to snowball really quickly up and down those hills. If you can perform well under duress on this course, you are going to do well the rest of the year.”