MEET RECAP: 2018 NJCAA Division I Cross Country Championships

The teams that held the No. 1 spot for a majority of the season in the NJCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s National Coaches’ Polls took home their respective gender’s titles Saturday morning at the 2018 NJCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

Central Arizona’s men and Iowa Central’s women stood on top of the podium following the conclusion of the meet, which saw the men compete over 8K and the women cover 5K. Andrew Kibet of Hutchinson (Kan.) won the men’s individual title, while Everlyn Kemboi of El Paso CC won the women’s individual title.

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The Vaqueros, who were ranked No. 1 in the Men’s National Coaches’ Poll for three out of the five weeks, used a true team effort to win the men’s crown. While it didn’t have a runner finish in the top-10, Central Arizona’s harriers packed together for a 57-second spread between its first runner (Ikageng Gaorekew, 11th) and fifth runner (John Ngaruiya, 29th). Between them, the Vaqueros finished 16th, 19th and 25th for a cumulative team score of 100 points. This was Central Arizona’s second national title in the past three years.

Iowa Central finished second with 118 points. Ezekiel Kipchirchir led the Tritons as he finished third overall. Kipchirchir was the only Iowa Central runner in the top-10 and just one of two in the top-20 (Innocent Murwanashyaka finished 14th overall).

El Paso CC finished third, only five points behind the Tritons. The Tejanos had the best top-3 in the meet as Dennis Kiptoo, Gideon Cheplak and Elias Loriposia crossed the finish line in fifth, seventh and ninth, respectively. Depth ultimately derailed EPCC’s title hopes.

Paradise Valley (Ariz.) and Southern Idaho rounded out the top-5.

The women’s race wasn’t as close as Iowa Central dominated the proceedings.

The Tritons, who were ranked No. 1 in the Women’s National Coaches’ Poll throughout the season, put their entire scoring lineup in the top-20, led by three in the top-6 (Lilian Busieni, third; Marion Bartilol, fourth; Florance Uwajeneza, sixth). The spread between Iowa Central’s first runner and fifth runner was 56 seconds, the second best out of any team. This was the Tritons’ fifth national title in the past eight years.

El Paso CC fought valiantly behind Kemboi, who won the individual title. The Tejanas finished with 70 points (25 behind the Tritons) and put four runners in the top-25.

Southern Idaho finished a distant third with 100 points, while Cowley (Kan.) and South Plains rounded out the top-5 in fourth and fifth, respectively.