LINCOLN, Nebraska — The annual Woody Greeno/Dirksen Invitational serves as a measuring stick for many cross country teams, from the NCAA Division I to the NAIA ranks.
And on Saturday, at Mahoney Golf Course, the Cloud County Community College men's cross country team couldn't have been much happier about where they currently stand after taking first place in the Class Golf standings, which consisted of NCAA Division II, NAIA and NJCAA teams.
"This was our first chance through our first three meets to really have all the guys healthy and ready to race at the same time. This was the first time we had the collective group," said Cloud County head coach, Drew Mahin. "I was really proud of how the guys competed. We raced with 8-9 good Division I programs and it was fun to see our guys stick their noses in there and run with them. The Woody Greeno is usually a good test against good teams to see where you are and it usually translates at the end of the year."
Kiptoo, the reigning USTFCCCA National Male NJCAA Athlete of the Week, posted the second fastest time for all runners — including the NCAA Division I teams — as he crossed the finish line in 24:25.70.
Santino was close behind with an 8K time of 24:28.70.
"It was great to see our top-2 guys be able to put a good race together and run with each other," Mahin said. "Those two have been working together during practice, in every single workout. I've been telling them that if they finished well here at the Woody Greeno, in the top 25 or 30, they're going to do really well at the NJCAA national meet."
Joining Kiptoo and Santino in the top-5 was fellow freshman Saba Khvichava, who came in fourth amongst Class Gold runner with a mark of 25:37.90, while Kwanele Mthembu (7th, 26:32.0), Thom Reynders (11th, 27:15.50), Ablel Gebreselase (21st, 28:36.30), Anton Reeves (26th, 28:49.90), Burke Deters (27th, 28:59.10), Ricky Cuvillier (44th, 31:05.90), Lucas Keil (58th, 33:37.10) and Mason Harrod (60th, 34:50.70) rounded of the Cloud County men finishers.
In the women's race to begin the morning, Cloud County sophomore Janne Hamisi impressed in her first collegiate race, earning 46th place in the Gold Class with a time of 28:44.00.
"In the middle of the race, she was looking at me, giving me a thumbs up. She's noticing things with her body, with her breathing. She's really made a lot of progress," said Mahin of Hamisi, who was a soccer player last season. "She's more confident and it's only going to grow from here."
Freshman Reagan Emerson concluded the list of T-Birds in action as she added a 63rd place finish in 31:30.70.
"The girls put in some really good races (Saturday) and fought through some the of the adversities we've faced with practice times, injuries, and the heat today," said Mahin, who is hoping to have the girls' team at full strength when the calendar flips over. "We're hoping to have all of our girls back for that October 6 race in Emporia and the next week at Fort Hays to get us ready for the conference meet."
Up next for the T-Birds will be the Chili Pepper Festival next Saturday in Fayetteville, Arkansas.