Eastern Kentucky University snared its fifth consecutive Ohio Valley Conference championship in both men’s and women’s cross country Saturday.
Meanwhile, Louisville’s men placed second and the women took eighth in the Big East Conference meet.
EKU’s men placed 1-through-5 to score a perfect 15 points, only the fourth time that has happened in conference history. EKU also pulled off sweeps in 1965 and 1989, and Western Kentucky did so in 1980. The Colonels, who now have 19 OVC men’s crowns, were followed by Southeast Missouri with 40 points.
EKU’s women upended Eastern Illinois 20-45.
Competing at the South Hills Golf Course in Cookeville, Tenn., the Colonels also had both individual winners.
Freshman Soufiane Bouchikhi won the men’s 8,000-meter race in 24 minutes, 56.73 seconds.
Senior Kat Pagano prevailed in the women’s 5,000-meter event, timed in 18:23.00.
“Today was less about individuals and more about teams,” said Coach Rick Erdmann, who won his 25th Women’s Coach of the Year award and his 17th Men’s Coach of the Year. “Both teams ran together and competed together, and I’m really proud of that. Hopefully this will give us some momentum heading into regionals.”
The NCAA Southeast Regionals are set for Nov. 13 at Louisville.
Bouchikhi followed in the footsteps of former Colonels Jacob Korir (2004-07), Joseph Maina (2008) and Wesley Ruttoh (2009) by being named OVC Male Cross Country Athlete of the Year and OVC Male Freshman of the Year. Bouchikhi is the first freshman to win the event since Korir in 2004, and his time is the fastest in the event since 2007.
Pagano, already a two-time top 10 finisher in the OVCs, won her first title. She placed fifth in 2008 and fourth last year. She is the second straight Colonel to win the event and OVC Athlete of the Year honors, as Picoty Leitich won last year as a freshman.
EKU’s Hannah Miller, 12th in 19:10.40, earned OVC Freshman of the Year honors.
After Bouchikhi, EKU’s men had sophomore Victor Kemboi in 25:19.63, junior Evans Kiptoo (25:29.16), junior David Mutuse (25:35.22) and freshman Ole Hesselbjerg (25:43.19). SEMO’s Jason Lumpkin finished less than a second after Hesselbjerg.
EKU’s three non-scoring runners all placed in the top 14. Sophomore Daniel Jones came in 10th, with juniors Musa Kimuli and Chris Rice going 12-14. All eight Colonels earned all-conference honors.
After Eastern and SEMO came Eastern Illinois (95), Morehead State (108), Austin Peay (145), UT Martin (162), Tennessee Tech (189), Jacksonville State (211), Murray State (260) and Tennessee State (310).
EKU’s women won their 25th OVC title, sweeping the first three places and six of the top 12.
After Pagano came sophomore Jackline Barkechir (18:40.72) and Leitich (18:46.74). Senior Sylvia Bundotich placed sixth (18:58.83) and junior Danielle Mason took eighth (19:02.79). Then came Miller, followed by freshman Natalie Field in 19th (19:41.30) and senior Ashli Joseph in 23rd (19:52.41).
After EKU and Eastern Illinois in the team standings, it was Murray in third (111), trailed by Jacksonville State (119), SEMO (158), Tech and Peay (181 each), Martin (183), Morehead (207) and Tennessee State (300).
First team – Bouchikhi, Kemboi, Kiptoo, Mutuse, Hesselbjerg, Lumpkin, Brad LaRocque (Eastern Ill.)
Second team – Chris Loseman and Nate Shipley (SEMO), Jones, Enock Langat (Peay), Kimuli, Dustin Davis (SEMO), Rice.
First team – Pagano, Barkechir, Leitich, Olivia Klaus (Eastern Ill.), Ericka Starn (Jacksonville), Bundotich, Gabriela Duenas (Eastern Ill.).
Second team – Mason, Brittany Arthur (Eastern Ill.), Katelyn Jones (Murray), Megan Gingerich (Eastern Ill.), Miller, Kasey Owens (SEMO), Erika Ramos (Eastern Ill.).
Eaton leads Louisville men
Michael Eaton, a senior, led Louisville’s men by placing second with an 8K time of 25:05.4. Lee Carey of Providence won in 24:56.8.
U of L’s Matt Hughes placed ninth (25:25.3). Tyler Byrne, 15th overall, was the top freshman in the race. Completing U of L’s scorers were Luke Lovelace and Gordon Dooley, 18th and 19th. The gap between Eaton and Dooley was a mere 53 seconds.
“I’m really proud of the men’s efforts today,” Cardinals Coach Brice Allen said. “They executed the game plan to a ‘T.’ We had the No. 1 senior and the No. 1 freshman in the conference.
“Michael ran the race today like a fifth-year senior. He was patient in the middle of the pack at the 800-meter mark; he moved into 15th place at the mile; by three miles, he moved into the top five; and with a mile to go he walked everyone down except the leader. That’s what you come to expect from a fifth-year senior.”
Emily Borsare led U of L’s women, placing 24th with a time of 21:55.1 for 6,000 meters. Kim Grieshaber was 43rd, Monica Hernandez 48th, Ariel Briggs 78th and Cassie Martin 79th.
“Emily ran a great race today,” Allen said. “She closed well and moved up 10 positions. To cap her cross country career, she ran well for the Cardinals.
“We’re looking forward to the regional race and the move on to nationals.”