IRVING, Texas– After an illustrious freshman season, including several individual titles, and a NCAA Championship appearance, Winny Koech was named the Conference USA Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year, as chosen by C-USA head coaches in the league.
This is UTEP’s first female winner since 2012, and the first female freshman since 2009.
Koech garnered four top-three finishes throughout the 2016 campaign, including two individual titles to prove her superb talents.
The standout freshman last competed at the NCAA Championships as the sole individual representative for UTEP on the women’s side. Koech completed her first career NCAA Championships in the top-100 nationally as she cruised in at 92nd place (20:47.8) in the 6K.
Winny Koech is the second female cross country athlete to receive this honor that head coach Paul Ereng has coached since his time at UTEP.
“I think this is a very significant and positive award for UTEP women’s cross country,” UTEP head coach Paul Ereng said. “Winny struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season, but she overpassed that once she gained a psychological boost at the Pre Nationals meet.”
On Oct. 15 at the NCAA Pre Nationals, Koech ran her first 6K of the season to lead the Miners to fourth place. The Iten, Kenya product was the first from the UTEP women’s team to complete the race, to take third place with a time of 20:57.6 in a course of 167 runners.
Koech then stepped on the gas at the C-USA Championships. The champion took gold with a season-best 5K showing of 16:56.6, finishing ahead of second place by nearly 12 seconds. The superlative athlete led the women’s team to clinch third place, improving from last season’s sixth-place conference finish. She was also awarded first team honors and was recognized as the C-USA Freshman of the Meet.
At the NCAA Mountain Regionals Koech crossed the line to take silver overall in a field of nationally ranked competitors in the 6K race. She ran her fastest 6K-time at the regional meet (20.17.1), to keep up with the front-leading pack of runners.
The honoree’s stellar efforts propelled the Miners to a ninth-place finish at regionals. Her second-place readout helped her punch her ticket to the NCAA Championships as an individual; the first female team member to qualify for nationals since 2012.
“For me as coach, I think this is the first of many good things to come.” Ereng said. “From our conference I believe Winny showed leadership. She will only continue to grow and get stronger and mature, so this is something good for her and the program.”