NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The USC Upstate men's and women's cross country teams put on a great show in Music City this morning for the 2011 Atlantic Sun Conference Cross Country Championships as the men's team took home the team crown and the Spartans collected individual titles in both the men's and women's races courtesy of junior Gilbert Kemboi (Eldoret, Kenya) and Jemeli Sang (Eldoret, Kenya). The event was hosted by Belmont at Percy Warner Park on the Vaughn's Gap Course.
This marks the first Atlantic Sun team title for Upstate as the men's team posted a score of 69 to defeat two-time defending champion, Kennesaw State. Kemboi crossed the finish line first in a time of 24:27.01, the fourth-fastest time in A-Sun history, to win his second-straight individual title. The junior became the sixth A-Sun student-athlete to win back-to-back individual meet titles.
"We're thrilled to bring home a team championship and I'm very proud of our guys," said associate head coach Carson Blackwelder. "We've finished third the last two years, so we knew we could do well, but we had a few guys that when it was time to step up, they did."
The Spartan men had three individuals post top-10 finishes as junior Davey Dennison (Carlisle, Pa.) came in sixth with a time of 25:18.35 and classmate Christian Ritacco (Niceville, Fla.) crossed the line in 10th with a time of 25:41.64. Junior Cameron Thomas (Niceville, Fla.) snagged a clutch 17th-place finish for Upstate with a time of 25:57.73. Kemboi and Dennison earned first team all-conference marks, while Ritacco was a second team all-conference selection. Kemboi was named the A-Sun men's Runner of the Year, while Blackwelder was chosen as the A-Sun Coach of the Year.
The Spartan men claimed the championship crown with a total of 69 points, edging Kennesaw State (79 points) by 10 points. Championship host Belmont came in third-place with 84 points.
On the women's side, the Spartans finished 1-2-3 as the senior Kenyan trio of Sang, Joan Tangwar (Eldoret, Kenya) and Carolyne Chelulei (Eldoret, Kenya) took home the gold, silver and bronze. The trifecta helped Upstate to a fourth-place team finish as Sang crossed the line in 17:20.90, Tangwar in 17:28.10 and Chelulei 17:48.70. This marks the third-straight year the Upstate women have finished fourth at the A-Sun meet, however this year the team recorded its best score in program history with 91 points.
"Taking the top-three spots on the women's side was huge and I am very proud of the girls," said Blackwelder. "It was a strong showing for us and we're focused on the NCAA Regionals coming up in a few weeks."
Sang, Tangwar and Chelulei were all-conference first team selections, while Sang was named A-Sun Runner of the Year. Lipscomb took top honors in the women's team standings, collecting 53 points. North Florida finished second, while Belmont came in third, tallying 69 and 81 total points, respectively.