T-Birds set to compete at NJCAA National Cross Country Championships on Saturday

T-Birds set to compete at NJCAA National Cross Country Championships on Saturday

CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College cross country teams make the trek to Garden City this weekend for the NJCAA National Cross Country Championships, hosted by Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.

With the forecast predicting temperatures in the high 40's to mid-50's, Saturday is shaping up to be ideal racing conditions by the time the women's race gets action underway at 12 p.m., with the men to follow at 1 p.m.

"The weather should be pretty good down in Garden City and the course will be difficult," said Cloud County head coach, Drew Mahin. "There will be some major hills in parts of course and they've changed the course a little bit from last year. There might be some paths that aren't necessarily true cross country surfaces with manicured golf greens and fairways. It'll be more sandy soils and maybe some rough patches that will test athletes."

The rougher terrain will likely lead to some slower times, evening out the playing field for what already projects as a deep and challenging pool of competitors.

On the men's side, after posting a fourth-place finish as a team at the Region VI/KJCCC Championships on Oct. 27, the T-Birds have their sights set high individually and collectively.

"The last meet at regionals didn't go quite as well as we hoped for everybody, so we'll be looking for a little redemption," Mahin said. "We're expecting to be a top-10 team. That'd be a good weekend for us."

One of the T-Birds who did shine at the Region VI/KJCCC Championships was freshman Dennis Kiptoo, who finished second overall with a personal record time of 24:17.40.

"Finishing runner-up at the Region VI meet as a freshman is very tough, especially with the level of talent we saw this year," Mahin said.

Fellow freshman Kenyi Santino, Saba Khvichava, and Thom Reynders all recorded top-25 finishes, as well, but have shown the potential to improve on those marks.

Sophomore Burke Deters, competing in his last race as a T-Bird with him set to graduate in December, ran his best race of the season at the regional meet, finishing 32nd overall with a time of 27:07.44.

He and freshmen Ablel Gebreselase, Kwanele Mthembu and alternate Anton Reeves round out the eight male runners who will line up for Cloud County on Saturday.

"If we run perfect, I think we could be anywhere from the top-3 to the top-5," Mahin said. "The perfect scenario would look something like Dennis finishing in the top-3, which he's perfectly capable of doing. If Kenyi finished in the top-5, that'd be a great scenario for him. It'd be a great scenario for Saba if he was top-15 and if Kwanele is top-20. Basically, if our top five guys are all in the top-50 runners, we'll be pretty happy with that result."

Cloud County is also hoping for three strong performances from a trio of females runners in sophomores Janne Hamisi, Sadie Jones and Rebekah Thomas. It'll be the first national championships appearance for all three runners.

Hamisi, a former soccer player, has paced the T-Birds much of the season and is coming off of 36th-place finish at the Region VI/KJCCC Championships.

"She's shown great progression since transferring over from soccer last year and we're excited to see what she can do at the national meet," Mahin said of Hamisi.

Jones and Thomas finished in 54th place and 59th place, respectively, at the regional meet and all three girls are peaking at the right time as they each recorded PR times back on Oct. 27 in Winfield.

Thomas is another girl new to cross country this season as she has split time as a Cloud County Thunderbolt dancer.

"It's kind of cool to see her (and Hamisi) come from different sports or activities and have a chance to go to nationals in cross country and improve their marks," Mahin said.

Action on Saturday gets underway at 12 p.m. with the women's race. The men's race lines up at 1 p.m. and the awards ceremony is tentatively scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

Due to limited parking available at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, a shuttle will be used to transport fans to the venue from the Finney County Fairgrounds. The shuttle service starts at 9:45 a.m.

Live results: https://results.wayzatatiming.com/meets/1751