Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics
UTEP women’s cross country will defend its Conference USA Championship Saturday, November 2 in chilly Bowling Green, Ky. (WKU).
The women will compete in the 5K starting at 10 a.m. CT/9 a.m. MT, while the men’s squad will take the course in an 8K event at 9 a.m. CT/8 a.m. MT.
Running for the defending champs will be junior Carolyne Chepkosgei, senior Linda Cheruiyot (defending gold medal champion), sophomore Karoline Daland, freshman Joan Kimaiyo, senior Winny Koech (silver medal in 2018), junior Andrea Lucero and freshman Jacquilyn Orozco.
“I think our fifth runner has to step and really work hard for the women to win the championship again,” UTEP Head Coach Paul Ereng said. “I’m looking for that fifth position to go to Andrea Lucero. She’s a junior and has more experience than freshman Joan (Kimaiyo). The fifth position is the key.”
Chepkosgei placed fifth overall and was the third-best Miner to finish last season. This season, the junior distance runner finished in third place at the Lobo Invitational, clocking a time of 18:22.47 in the 5K. She, along with Cheruiyot, Koech and Karoline, are expected to finish as the top four Miners.
“This weekend we need to push hard like we did last season for us to retain our title,” Chepkosgei said. “We have trained really hard during the whole season to prepare for this weekend. Everybody is in good shape and we expect something great this weekend.”
Competing for the men are sophomore Cory Calvani, freshman Titus Cheruiyot, junior Cornelius Kapel, sophomore Rodgers Korir, freshman Kayn Quinones, sophomore Boaz Ronoh, sophomore Michael Sims and freshman Kenneth Talavera.
“The men have been very competitive this season,” Ereng said. “Right now, we have two athletes running very well but the other three have to finish close to them. Middle Tennessee is a very good team and that’s where the competition is going to come from.
UTEP is looking for its first C-USA championship since the 2016 season when the Miners completed back-to-back titles.
Korir, a sophomore, opened the season with a second-place finish at the Lobo Invitational in the 5K, while crossing the finish line first in the 6.4m at the Lori Fitzgerald Memorial. Last season at the C-USA Championships, Korir finished in fifth place and was the second Miner to cross the finish line. The men finished in fourth place with two runners in the top five as Ronoh took second place.
“Winning a conference championship has been my dream of mine and the team,” Korir said. “I’ve been training and running hard so I can help the team win conference. I’m happy so far with my season. Last year, I didn’t do so well, but I feel more comfortable this year.”
Cheruiyot has competed well for the men’s team, finishing in first place during two events in his first season at UTEP. He opened his collegiate career with a first-place finish at the Lobo Invitational, and another winning effort at the Joe Piane-Notre Dame Invitational.
An element the Miners will be challenged with is the cold weather this weekend. Saturday’s high will about 50 degrees. Last season, the C-USA Championships ran in sunny and warm Boca Raton, Florida.
“That’s how the competition is. When you want it badly, regardless if the weather is cold or whatever it is, you got to go for it,” Ereng said. “That’s the point of competing. That is one of the things I will speak [to the team] about during the final touches before they compete. When it rains, it rains on everybody. When it’s windy, it doesn’t blow on one person alone, it blows on everybody. That’s the nature of competition.”
To follow along with all the action, visit the 2019 C-USA XC Championships Central website.