Cloud County men finish fourth in the region, women ninth at Region VI/KJCCC Championships

Cloud County sophomores Rebekah Thomas (left) and Sadie Jones (right) finished 59th and 54th overall, respectively, at Saturday's Region VI/KJCCC Championships
Cloud County sophomores Rebekah Thomas (left) and Sadie Jones (right) finished 59th and 54th overall, respectively, at Saturday's Region VI/KJCCC Championships

WINFIELD, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College cross country teams got their first taste of postseason action on Saturday as the T-Birds compete at the Region VI/KJCCC Championships on a warm afternoon in Winfield, Kansas.

As anticipated, it was a four-horse race atop the Region VI men's leaderboard between the T-Birds, Hutchinson Community College, Allen County Community College and Colby Community College.

Hutchinson would claim the Region VI Championship, and the KJCCC West crown, with 48 points. Colby (52) and Allen County (70) followed while Cloud County (80) earned its second consecutive fourth-place finish in the region.

"I thought whichever of the top four teams in our region had the better fourth and fifth positions would come out with the win," said Cloud County head coach, Drew Mahin. "I thought all four teams had a chance at it, we happened to have a few guys not have their best days."

Individually, Cloud County freshman Dennis Kiptoo highlighted the afternoon for the T-Birds as he finished second overall in a PR time of 24:17.40, sandwiched between Colby's Wesley Banguria in third (24:24.12) and Hutchinson's Andrew Kibet (24:01.80).

Cloud County received three additional top-25 finishes from freshmen Kenyi Santino, Saba Khvichava and Thom Reynders.

Santino, the 2016 Olympian from South Sudan, placed 10th overall with a time of 25:47.01. Khvichava continued his steady freshman season with a 13th-place finish in 25:57.72, and Reynders followed close behind in 25th-place with a mark of 26:56.26.

Sophomore runner Burke Deters (27:07.44) and freshman Ablel Gebreselase (27:08.78) each stepped up for the T-Birds on Saturday to post scoring times, finishing in 32nd and 33rd place, respectively, and freshman Kwanele Mthembu rounded out the top scorers for Cloud County with a 49th place finish in 27:32.88.

The finish was the best of the season for Deters, who has started to come on strong for the T-Birds as they near the national meet.

"Burke has really stepped up as a sophomore here lately," Mahin said. "He didn't have his best races early in the season, but he's stepping up at the right time and we look forward to seeing what will happen in two weeks."

Cloud County also received a nice showing from its women's team on Saturday as all five T-Birds posted personal record times en route to finishing in ninth place.

"They treated it like a team race and we competed like it. All the girls were helping each other out during the race," Mahin said. "We talked to them all week about expecting bigger things, expecting to run PR times and to test yourself, and every girl was dialed in today to have their best race. It was a good foundation starter for us to have those five step up, compete together as a team and hopefully we'll build off that for the future."

Sophomore Janne Hamisi paced the Cloud women's team with a time of 20:44.45 to finish in 36th place.

Fellow sophomores Sadie Jones and Rebekah Thomas followed in 54th place and 59th place, respectively with runs of 21:50.51 and 22:00.49.

Freshman Abby White, competing in her first collegiate race, crossed the finish line in 64th place (22:52.86) and freshman Reagan Emerson earned 68th place (23:30.51).

Cloud County will now get two weeks to rest up and prepare for the NJCAA Cross Country Championships, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10 in Garden City.

"The exciting thing is. when you give freshmen a chance to learn from something and are still growing as a team, you still have a chance to improve every week you come back and compete," Mahin said. "Competiting in Kansas will be a benefit for us. Being able to know some of the top players in the nation from our region will be a benefit for us. It'll be a tougher competition in the top-end, but I still think our guys have a good shot of finishing top-5 as a team at the national meet. Two weeks is a long time to reset, gear up again and have a few weeks of good training to lead up to it."