Tangwar, Kemboi Break Records, Pace Spartans At Eye Opener

Tangwar, Kemboi Break Records, Pace Spartans At Eye Opener


SPARTANBURG, S.C. – It was Spartan green that crossed the finish line first in both the men’s and women’s collegiate events on Saturday morning at the 27th Annual Eye Opener as USC Upstate’s Joan Tangwar and Gilbert Kemboi finished for the individual gold in their respective races.

The women, who competed first at 8:00 a.m., were paced by Tangwar who broke through the ribbon at 18:02 for the individual victory. Tangwar is the third Upstate female to win the race in as many years as teammate Carolyne Chelulei won in 2009 and sister Emily Tangwar won in 2008.

“It was a good day” said Tangwar. “I had been training for this race all summer, so when I came here this morning I felt confident that I would be able to win. Towards the end it was tough, but I used the confidence that I had to win in order to push myself over the hill and to the finish. I am confident now that not only can I win our next couple races but that our team has the ability to win also.”

Out of the remaining 184 female athletes, Upstate placed four additional ladies in the Top-25. Jameli Sang crossed the finish line in 18:06 for a second place finish within the Spartan roster and third place finish overall; while last year’s victor Chelulei crossed in 18:23, third for the Spartans and fifth overall.

Closing out the Top-25 runners and first five finishers for the Spartans was E. Tangwar with 19:16 and Lauren Walker in 19:16 for 18th and 21st place overall, respectively.

Notably, Jillian Finney picked up a new personal best, registering a 24:58 to finish 154th.

As a whole, the women came in second out of 22 teams with 48 points, 57 points ahead of third place teams Campbell and Furman (105 points apiece) and just 6 points behind first place UNC Charlotte (42 points).

On the Men’s side of things, Kemboi picked up his second consecutive win in Eye Opener appearances on his way to breaking the course record and school record once again. Kemboi picked up his individual win with a 24:13 showing, breaking the school’s 8K record by 15.0 seconds and the Milliken course record by 47.0 seconds.

“It feels good to win,” said Kemboi. “I am happy and proud of myself after my performance today but I would still like to work towards getting better times than what I did today. The rest of the season I will just looking for bigger achievements.

Of the remaining 187 male athletes that competed, Upstate placed three in the Top-25 and eight in the Top-100. Coming in second for the Spartans and fifth overall was Davey Dennison who picked up a personal best 25:49 at the finish line. Third for Upstate and 15th overall was newcomer Andrew Kipchumba with a 26:24 and Cameron Thomas rounded out the Top-25 runners for the Spartans, coming in fourth for Upstate and 24th overall with a new personal best 26:42.

Markedly, Dylan Taylor and Dustin Thomas also recorded personal best times with their 30:32 for 135th and 31:50 for 155th, respectively.

As a team the men finished second of 21 teams with 71 points. First place went to Furman who picked up 40 points and in third was Belmont with 77 points.

“It’s a really good start for us,” said coach Jimmy Stephens. “I am really excited about how our teams did today. Coach Blackwelder is doing an amazing job with the athletes and these days our programs are contending with Furman and Charlotte. We are both excited about where the program is headed and what the rest of the season will bring.”

“Today was a good day,” said coach Carson Blackwelder. “We had two individual champions with a PR for both of them, and Gilbert got a school record by about 17 seconds, so that is also exciting. Both of our men’s and women’s programs finished second as a team which is about where we expected to be – and it was really close on the women’s side, just missing first by six points.

We have some really fast times to get us started and we are in the right place with the program right now so we are all excited about where we will go from here.”

The 27th Annual Eye Opener was held at Milliken Research Park. While technically, the USC Upstate cross country team’s home course is “off-campus”, it is no more than a short run to the Milliken Research Park. Adjacent to the campus of USC Upstate, the Milliken Center is one of the most prestigious cross country courses in the nation. In 2008 alone, the headquarters of Milliken & Company hosted the 2008 NJCAA National Championships, the 25th Annual Eye Opener (the largest cross country race in South Carolina) and the Southern Conference Championships.

This season the Spartans will host another pair of events at Milliken when they invite competition to the USC Upstate Invitational, Oct. 16 at 10:00 a.m. and the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships, Oct. 30 at 10:00 a.m.

The Spartan cross country squads will see action again on Sept. 17 when they travel to the campus of Clemson University for the Clemson Cross Country Invitational. The gun is set to go off at 5 p.m. for the women’s 5K and the men’s 8K will immediately follow.



1 Joan Tangwar 18:02 *
3 Jemeli Sang 18:06
5 Caroline Chelulei 18:23
18 Emily Tangwar 19:16
21 Lauren Walker
51 Mary Alexander 20:21
70 Laura Transue 21:00
113 Jessica Davis 22:36
139 Nicole Yancey 23:47
154 Jillian Finney 24:58 *


1 Gilbert Kemboi 24:13 * (NEW SCHOOL RECORD)
5 Davey Dennison 25:49 *
15 Andrew Kipchumba 26:24
24 Cameron Thomas 26:42 *
26 James Jackson 26:44
48 Ross Oden 27:32
56 Joey Daversa 27:45
57 Christian Ritacco 27:48
80 Matt Henderson
106 Robert Burnet 29:28
132 Matt Johnson 30:29
135 Dylan Taylor 30:32 *
152 Michael Johnson 31:38
155 Dustin Thomas 31:50 *
157 Kalib Law 31:58


* indicates personal best time.