SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The USC Upstate men's and women's cross country teams head to Nashville, Tenn., for the 2011 Atlantic Sun Conference Cross Country Championships Saturday, Oct. 29, hosted by Belmont at Percy Warner Park on the Vaughn's Gap Course.
This will be the fifth meet of the 2011 season for the Spartan cross country teams with the men's race set for 10 a.m. CT and the women's at 10:45 a.m. CT In four meets, the women's team claimed four individual wins with senior Joan Tangwar (Eldoret, Kenya) picking up three wins and classmate Jemeli Sang (Eldoret, Kenya) earning one race victory, while the men's team has collected two individual wins courtesy of junior Gilbert Kemboi (Eldoret, Kenya).
As the Atlantic Sun defending champion, Kemboi looks to become the sixth A-Sun student-athlete to win back-to-back individual meet titles this weekend. His time of 24:00 at the 2010 Championship was the third-fastest in conference history. The Spartan men have finished third in the A-Sun meet the last two years and return two all-conference selections from last year in Kemboi and junior Davey Dennison (Carlisle, Pa.) and an all-freshman team member in sophomore Andrew Kipchumba (Eldoret, Kenya).
"This is the best men's team Upstate has ever had," said Upstate's associate head coach Carson Blackwelder. "We have nine guys that will contribute and hopefully bring us a top-two finish. The men's team feels it has something to prove to the A-Sun and to Upstate."
This season, Kemboi has won two races and finished second in one. He posted the second fastest-time in the conference this season with a 24:14 mark en route to a second-place finish at the Charlotte Invitational Sept. 30. As a team the Upstate men finished sixth out of 34 strong teams at the Charlotte meet. Junior Christian Ritacco (Niceville, Fla.) recorded the second-best time for the Spartans this season with a time of 25:33.55, while sophomore Ross Oden (Salisbury, N.C.) posted the third-fastest time of 25:55.90.
On the women's side, the Spartans have been led this season by the senior trio of Tangwar, Sang and Carolyne Chelulei (Eldoret, Kenya).Tangwar posted the fastest 5K time in school history with a 16:53.7 race-winning mark at the Charlotte Invitational Sept. 30, while Sang clocked in at 17:13.5 and Chelulei came in at 17.30.2. The senior women recorded the top-three 5K times in the league this season. Sang set a school record in the women's 6K Sept. 16 at the Clemson Invitational, winning her first collegiate race with a time of 20:42.88.
"We have a good shot at finishing within the top four on Saturday," Blackwelder said. "The women are in great shape and have had amazing workouts over the last two weeks. I'm excited to see how we run on Saturday."
The Spartan women have finished fourth in the A-Sun Championship the last two years and have never had an individual conference champion. Tangwar, Chelulei and Sang were all-conference team members last year, after finishing fifth, ninth and 14th, respectively in the championship meet. The team was picked to finish fifth in the pre-season poll this year, but seek to surpass that this weekend.
The Kennesaw State men look for their third-straight A-Sun Championship team title, while the North Florida women seek to defend their 2010 team crown. Full results, highlights and interviews will be posted on the Atlantic Sun website following the conclusion of both the men's and women's races.