Photo: Michael Patrick Reese | UTEP
The UTEP men’s and women’s cross country teams are set to return to the field to compete at the NCAA Division I Pre National Invitational this Saturday.
After a two-week hiatus from competition, the Miners are ready to jump back into action, joining 62 men’s team’s and 69 women’s teams from across the nation.
Hosted by Indiana State University, the meet will take place at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind., The UTEP men’s team will be running in the men’s 8K blue race at 9:35 a.m. (MT).
The last time the Miners took the field was on Sept. 30 at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational where the men’s team finished in second place and earned a No. 12 national rank by the USTFCCCA for their performance.
This weekend the nationally ranked team for the Orange and Blue will contest to a field of 41 total teams including seven other nationally ranked schools: No. 4 Oregon, No. 5 Arkansas, No. 6 Colorado, No. 7 Portland, No. 13 Indiana, No. 15 Eastern Kentucky, and No. 20 Michigan.
During last year’s Pre Nationals, the men’s team secured fourth-place over 42 teams, 11 of which were ranked inside the top 30 at Pre Nationals. This season they strive to better their efforts against high-caliber competition.
Leading the men’s team is sophomore Jonah Koech who finished fifth (23:52.60) in his last 8K at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invite. Koech will be returning to his second Pre Nationals meet; last season as a freshman he placed fourth overall with an 8K time of 23:24.3.
Fellow sophomore Antony Kosgei is another veteran returnee to Pre Nationals. Kosgei has stepped up his efforts this season, completing the Notre Dame Invite with a seventh-place 8K time of 23.55.0. Last year as a freshman he recorded a personal best 8K time of 24:17.9, which he has already surpassed this season.
Also returning to the course are seniors Cosmas Boit, Evans Kiprono, and Daniel Cheruiyot. Boit dashed to a 37th-place showing with a personal best 8K time of 23:50.0. Cheruiyot was the fourth Miner to cross last season’s Pre Nationals’ finish line in 57th place (24:02.6) while Kiprono (25:24.8) rounded out the effort for the men’s team by finishing in 262nd place.
Freshmen Michael Saruni and Emmanuel Korir will experience their first Pre Nationals meet this weekend. Saruni finished his first career 8K at Notre Dame in 28th place (24:13.10) while Korir recorded a 25:44.60 8K time (171st).
The UTEP women’s team will run in the 6K white race at 10:15 a.m. (MT) in a field of 29 total teams., including a variety of Power 5 schools: Clemson, Drake, Nebraska, Oregon State, Texas Christian, and Wake Forest.
Standout sophomore Lilian Koech led the Miners to a third-place title at Notre Dame and took an individual victory as well (17:15.60/5K). Koech will be returning back to Pre Nationals for her second time in her career.
The trio of Gladys Jerotich, Truphena Sum, and Lilliana Valdespino has also competed in Pre Nationals. Jerotich notched a 28th-place finish with a time of 21:27.9 while Truphena Sum clocked a time of 23:36.6 to cross the finish line in 199th place.
Kayla Pallares will compete in her first Pre Nationals meet. She achieved her best 5k time (18:37.60) of the season at Notre Dame. Senior Veronica Alvarez (20:56.50/215th) will be stepping on to the Pre Nationals field for the first time as well.
Freshmen Winny Koech and Linda Cheruiyot will also be new to the course. Both have proved to be substantial components to the Miners’ success this season. They clinched 20th (17:41.90) and 46th place (18:02.50) respectively at Notre Dame.