Louisville, Ky. – In a field of 323 runners and 38 teams from a variety of conferences including the Atlantic Coast, Southeastern, Big East, A-Sun, Ohio Valley and Southern conferences, Gilbert Kemboi turned in a strong effort en route to a third-place finish at the Greater Louisville Classic Saturday. However, he wasn't the only Spartan to turn in a strong performance as Joan Tangwar broke the school record in the 5k en route to a 13th-place finish.
The meet, hosted by the University of Louisville, is one of the largest collegiate meets run each year. Kemboi, a sophomore from Eldoret, Kenya, traversed the 8k course in a time of 23:22.28 to finish third by just 1.53 seconds. The time was the fastest of his career, bettering the mark of 23:58.79 in winning the Clemson Invitational two weeks ago. It is also a new school record in the 8k. He is currently featured in the "Faces in the Crowd" section of the Oct. 4 issue of Sports Illustrated for his prowess early this season. He won the season-opening Eye Opener meet in early September and broke his own meet record by a whopping 47 seconds.
"It was another amazing effort for Gilbert," said Upstate head coach Jimmy Stephens. "He came around with 200 meters to go and was leading. There was a pack of four runners and two got by him. They were drafting him most of the race and he may have started his stretch run a little early. He beat some really good runners today."
"He is one of the best in the nation right now," said Carson Blackwelder, Upstate assistant coach. "His performance was one of the best performances out there. He really put it out there. He took the lead and the guys sat on him a little bit. But, there's not much else you can say. The effort speaks for itself."
Columbus State's Meshack Koyiaki claimed the individual championship with a time of 23:20.75, while Western Kentucky's Shadrack Kipchirchir was second at 23:21.18. Kemboi finished ahead of Mississippi State's Barnabas Kirui, who finished fourth at the NCAA Championships last year.
On the women's side, Tangwar (Jr., Eldoret, Kenya) broke the school's record for the 5k, finishing with a time of 17:25.36. She lowered the school record by six seconds. She also lowered her personnel best by 13 seconds to finish 13th out of 302 runners. Tangwar won the Eye Opener meet in early September with a time of 18:02.00. She lowered that time in the Clemson Invitational two weeks ago, running in 17:38.14.
"Joan broke the school record and also had a personal record today," said Blackwelder. "She thought she ran slower than what she did, but she realized it was a great performance when she found out her time. She is definitely going in the right direction."
"Joan was great today," said Stephens. "With that size field, to be in the top 100 is quite an accomplishment. To be in the top 20 is pretty amazing."
The women's team finished in the middle of the pack, claiming 17th out of 35 teams in the meet. Jemeli Sang (Jr., Eldoret, Kenya) shaved three seconds off of her season-best time, finishing in 18:03.81 to finish 55th in the large field. Carolyne Chelulei (Jr., Eldoret, Kenya) cut 15 seconds of her best time this year, running the 5k in 18:08.13 to claim 60th.
Grand Valley State claimed the team championship on the women's side. Vanderbilt was second and Georgia was third. Upstate finished ahead of Ole Miss (SEC), Elon (Southern), Georgia Tech (ACC), Miami (ACC) and Kennesaw State (A-Sun), among others, in the event. Shippensberg's Neely Spence won the individual championship with a time of 16:32.90.
"Overall, I was really pleased with the team's performance," said Stephens. "To be in the top half of the field is a really good finish. We would like to have done better, but this was solid. We need to come together for the A-Sun Championships to move up in the standings."
On the men's side, Louisville won the team championship, with Colorado School of Mines finishing second and Grand Valley State finishing third. The Spartans finished in the second half of a strong field, finishing ahead of the ACC's Miami Hurricanes and the SEC's Vanderbilt Commodores.
Davey Dennison (So., Carlisle, Pa.) was the second-best Spartan on the day. He finished with a time of 25:28.06, shaving 19 seconds off of his season-best performance of 25:49 in the Eye Opener. Andrew Kipchumba (Fr., Eldoret, Kenya) also lowered his career-best time, finishing in 25:50.12, 15 seconds better than his effort of 26:05 in the Clemson Invitational two weeks ago.
"Our top three finishers were really solid today," said Stephens. "But, in order to compete for an A-Sun championship, we are going to have to have our top five come together and finish stronger if we want a shot at the title."
Upstate will take next weekend off before returning to the trails in hosting the USC Upstate Invitational at the Milliken Research Park on Oct. 16.