Special to the Progress
The Eastern Kentucky University men’s cross country team punched its ticket to the NCAA Championships by finishing second overall at the NCAA Southeast Regional on Friday at Winthrop Farm.
The Colonels – ranked No. 16 in the country – scored 90 points on the day, losing only to N.C. State (83) in a very tight race. Virginia (102) and Furman (116) were also in the mix for the title.
The top two finishers from all nine regional meets across the country automatically advance to the NCAA Championships.
It is EKU’s sixth all-time trip to the NCAA Championships, but first since 2015. The Colonels advanced to the national championship meet five consecutive years, from 2011 to 2015.
Redshirt freshman James Sugira led the way for Eastern, running down Virginia Tech’s Peter Seufer at the end to win the Southeast Region individual title with a 10K time of 29:26.9.
Sugira is the first Colonel to win the Southeast since Soufiane Bouchikhi in 2012.
Seniors Jaime Romo and Erick Rotich also delivered big-time performances for the Colonels. Romo placed 10th overall out of 232 competitors with a 10K time of 30:15.7, while Rotich was 16th in a time of 30:28.1
Sugira, Romo and Rotich were all named NCAA All-Southeast Region following the meet.
Freshman Antoine Senard also came up clutch for the Colonels. Racing in his first-ever 10K, Senard made up 12 spots over the second half of the race to finish fourth on the team and 31st overall in a time of 30:50.2.
Senior David Bascunana rounded out EKU’s scoring five on the day by finishing 32nd in a time of 30:51.4.
The EKU women finished seventh out of 33 teams at the meet, defeating the likes of Clemson (ninth), Kentucky (10th), Louisville (11th) and North Carolina (14th).
The Colonels were led by three All-Southeast Region performances from junior Lilian Jeptoo Kiborus (10th out of 245 runners / 20:17.5), freshman Lilian Ndorobo (14th / 20:23.6) and senior Gladys Cheruiyot (24th / 20:43.1).
Ndorobo made up 16 spots over the second half of the 6K race to surge into All-Region position.
Seniors Alondra Hoyos (70th / 21:28.6) and Meggan Grams (78th / 21:35.6) rounded out EKU’s top-five on the day.
The EKU men will race for a national championship next Saturday, November 17, in Madison, Wisconsin.