By Leeroy Francis Jr. |
The Augusta University men’s cross country team took second in the 2018 Peach Belt Conference Championships Saturday, Nov. 3, at Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site in Beech Island, S.C., finishing just four points behind UNC Pembroke in a very tight conference finale.
On a cool, sunny Saturday morning, UNC Pembroke was led by individual race winner Joshua Chepkesir and runner-up Silus Kipkoech. Behind the two Kenyans, the Braves won the team title with 36 points, while Augusta took second with 40 points, Flagler third (81), Georgia College fourth (87) and Columbus State fifth (95).
Kipkoech led the race early, but his freshman teammate came back to win with a time of 24:22.3. In addition to being the 2018 champion, Chepkesir was named freshman of the year for the league. Kipkoech finished in 24:41.4.
Ranked fourth in the NCAA Southeast Region, the AU men had finished in the top three in all four regular-season events this season, including back-to-back victories at the Jaguar Cross Country Invitational on Sept. 22 and at the North Georgia Invitational on Sept. 29. The second-place showing was the third runner-up finish in school history at the PBC finals.
Augusta had three in the top five in the PBC title race, led by sophomore Hunter Kimball. The integrated studies major stayed close to the two UNCP runners, Chepkesir and Kipkoech, and the Jaguar runner finished in third place, clocking in at 24:49.6.
Sophomore Jacob Poston placed fourth in 24:57.9, and senior Noah Hulett was fifth in 24:58.5. UNCP’s Logan Ward was sixth.
AU Coach Adam Ward nearly had his team defend its championship. The Jags countered the low team score Pembroke notched from winning the first two slots by sweeping three, four and five. Then the Braves’ Ward took sixth.
It all came down to where the fourth- and fifth-place finishers on each team would wind up. AU’s Chandler Kennedy ran a 24:43.2 for ninth place and freshman Kakeem Littles finished in 19th with a time of 26:10.4. Meanwhile, Pembroke’s Matthew Martin finished 11th and Ean Ormsby took 16th, producing the very narrow Braves’ victory of just four points.
Augusta had raced at Redcliffe Plantation several times this season, as the Jaguars hosted the Jaguar Cross Country Invitational Sept. 22 where the Jaguar men placed first overall, while the women grabbed third.
“I loved this weather,” Kimball said of the crisp autumn morning. “It was a great day to run.”
Coach Ward has established an outstanding program and now has seen his Jaguars finish in the top three in the PBC championships four consecutive seasons. Kimball sees nothing but a bright future for the Jag runners.
“We have a really young team and we did a lot of growing today,” he said. “I think Augusta is going to be a really strong team the next few years.”
The next event for the Jaguar cross country team is the NCAA Southeast Regional in Oakwood, Ga. on Saturday, Nov 17. The starting time will be announced soon. The regional is being hosted by North Georgia.