DI National Award Winners in Cross Country Feature NCAA Champions
By Tom Lewis, USTFCCCA
November 20, 2012
NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced on Wednesday that NCAA Division I Cross Country Champions Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech and Betsy Saina of Iowa State were named as National Athletes of the Year for the 2012 cross country season. In addition, Oklahoma State’s Dave Smith was named the Bill Dellinger National Men’s Coach of the Year while Oregon’s Robert Johnson was recognized as the Peter Tegen National Women’s Coach of the Year.
NATIONAL MEN’S ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Kennedy Kithuka, Texas Tech
A junior transfer from Thika, Kenya, Kithuka completed his first year in NCAA competition undefeated in six races, winning the NCAA individual crown, the NCAA Mountain Region title, and the Big 12 Conference championship. At the national championships, he blew away the field, winning by seven seconds with a course-record time of 28:31.3. The national championship is Kithuka’s first of his career at the Division I level after capturing ten in track and field and cross country at the NAIA level (Wayland Baptist) before transferring to Texas Tech.
He took the Mountain region crown in 29:36, clearing the field in that 10k race by 19 seconds. He won the Big 12 crown by over a minute and was the top man at the Chile Pepper Invitational by more than that – winning that 10k in 28:52.
Previous Five National Male Athletes of the Year
2011: Lawi Lalang, Arizona
2010: Sam Chelanga, Liberty
2009: Sam Chelanga, Liberty
2008: Galen Rupp, Oregon
2007: Josh McDougal, Liberty
NATIONAL WOMEN’S ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Betsy Saina, Iowa State
Saina, a senior from Eldoret, Kenya, took the NCAA individual national title with a rousing run, holding off Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino and Oregon’s Jordan Hasay in the final stretch to catch the tape in 19:27.10. She led the Cyclones to an 11th-place national team finish.
She also led Iowa State to the NCAA Midwest Regional title with a win of her own. She covered the 6k regional course on a blustery day in 19:51, four seconds ahead of defending champion Aliphine Tuliamuk of Wichita State. Saina won the Big 12 title earlier in the year in leading the team to a second-straight conference crown. She also claimed victory at the Roy Griak Invite and was second at Wisconsin’s adidas Invitational.
Previous Five National Female Athletes of the Year
2011: Sheila Reid, Villanova
2010: Sheila Reid, Villanova
2009: Angela Bizzarri, Illinois
2008: Sally Kipyego, Texas Tech
2007: Sally Kipyego, Texas Tech
Bill Dellinger NATIONAL MEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR: Dave Smith, Oklahoma State
Smith, in his seventh year at the helm at Oklahoma State, led the Cowboys this season to their third NCAA title over a four-year period. At this year’s championships, OSU (72) won by a 63-point margin over runner-up and defending national champion Wisconsin (135). The 72 points by OSU was the best team score to win the national title since Wisconsin in 2005 (37).
Led by senior Girma Mecheso who finished fifth overall, the Cowboys picked up a national-high four All-America honors. Junior Tom Farrell (ninth), junior Shadrack Kipchirchir (18th), and junior Joseph Manilafasha (24th) also captured honors from the USTFCCCA.
The Cowboys tied for the NCAA Midwest crown with in-state and conference rival Oklahoma – their eighth region title in ten years. OSU also claimed their fifth-straight Big 12 crown, winning this year’s tally with only 24 points.
Previous Five National Men’s Coaches of the Year
2011: Mick Byrne, Wisconsin
2010: Dave Smith, Oklahoma State
2009: Dave Smith, Oklahoma State
2008: Vin Lananna, Oregon
2007: Vin Lananna, Oregon
Peter Tegen NATIONAL WOMEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR: Robert Johnson, Oregon
Johnson, in his first year as head of the Oregon program, took the Ducks to their first women’s NCAA cross country crown since 1987. Senior Jordan Hasay was the top Duck with a third-place individual finish. She was joined in gaining All-America honors by senior Alexi Pappas (eighth) and senior transfer Katie Conlon (39th).
The Ducks were winners of the NCAA West Regional for the first time this season and they added a Pac-12 title to the season story. It was their first women’s conference cross country crown since 1995.
Previous Five National Women’s Coaches of the Year
2011: Chris Miltenberg, Georgetown
2010: Gina Procaccio, Villanova
2009: Gina Procaccio, Villanova
2008: Greg Metcalf, Washington
2007: Peter Tegen, Stanford