Victory Is Sweet For Justyn Knight & Ednah Kurgat

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – It was worth the wait for Syracuse senior Justyn Knight and New Mexico sophomore Ednah Kurgat.

Knight and Kurgat each won their first individual titles on Saturday at the 2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships and capped undefeated seasons in the process.

2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships

Name Time   Name Time
Justyn Knight 29:00.2   Ednah Kurgat 19:19.5
Tyler Day 29:00.8   Amy-Eloise Neale 19:27.0
Matthew Baxter 29:04.6   Charlotte Taylor 19:28.6
Gilbert Kigen 29:11.9   Allie Ostrander 19:31.3
Grant Fisher 29:12.1   Weronika Pyzik 19:34.1

Past experiences at this meet paid dividends for Knight at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park.

When cramps knotted Knight’s stomach in the early part of the men’s 10K, he didn’t worry. He had been there before back in 2014.

As Alabama’s Gilbert Kigen briefly pulled away as the race neared its midpoint, Knight didn’t flinch. He saw that move before.

And once the Northern Arizona duo of Matthew Baxter and Tyler Day began surging in the final 800 meters, Knight knew he had to keep close. Patrick Tiernan won the individual title last year around the same point of the race (Knight finished second).

“Every single experience helped get me through this race today,” Knight said not long after he crossed the finish line in 29:00.2. “Freshman year when I got 143rd, I really cramped up – like bad. I kind of fell back and gave up. I used that experience today when I started cramping up. Then my sophomore year when (Edward) Cheserek and (Patrick) Tiernan pulled away from me, I kind of let them go and tried to stay back in my comfort zone. That kind of came back to help me over here. Last year with Tiernan, I tried to keep the gap as close as possible, but toward the finish I let him go a little bit more. I brought that experience over here. Every single year that I’ve experienced NCAA Championships it all molded together in creating this championship.”

Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of the last time Kurgat competed in the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. Kurgat finished 12th in 2015 and NCAA transfer rules kept her on the sideline last year since she took her talents from Liberty to New Mexico.

Kurgat made up for lost time in 2017 and it looked as if she wanted to make a statement with each of her five races. Her average margin of victory was 10 seconds and she beat Washington’s Amy-Eloise Neale to the finish line by eight seconds on Saturday.

“I was so excited,” Kurgat said after setting a championship record with her time of 19:19.5. “I don’t take anything for granted. My challenges are behind me. They all act as a stepping stone to where I am today.”