LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The USC Upstate men's and women's cross country teams posted strong finishes at the NCAA Southeast Region Championships hosted by Louisville today as the Spartan women took home an impressive 17th-place finish, while the Spartan men were a solid 22nd in the team standings.
Upstate tallied 468 points in the women's 6K for a strong 17th-place finish as the team was led by the senior duo of Joan Tangwar (Eldoret, Kenya) and Jemeli Sang (Eldoret, Kenya). Tangwar came in 15th and Sang claimed 16th with times of 20:45.7 and 20:46.9, respectively. The pair earned Southeast All-Region honors.
"The women's team had a great race," said Upstate associate head cross country coach Carson Blackwelder. "We were able to break into the top 20 and take home some all-region awards. Our ladies did an amazing job of sticking to the race plan and battled all the way to the finish."
In the men's 10K, the Spartans collected 590 points for a 22nd-place team finish.
"The men had a great meet," Blackwelder said. "Finishing 22nd in the Southeast Region is a solid performance. It is a strong region and a great performance for Upstate's first-ever post season competition."
Junior Gilbert Kemboi (Eldoret, Kenya) led the squad, crossing the line in 30:21.6 to snag an 11th-place finish. He picked up All-Region accolades for his performance.
"Gilbert had a great race, from the gun he put himself in good position and mixed it up with some of the best runners in the country," Blackwelder said. "They went through the mile in 4:45 and continued a quick pace through 5k. He went through the 5k in 14:25 and battled all the way to the end."
On the women's side, senior Carolyne Chelulei (Eldoret, Kenya) was the third finisher for Upstate, crossing the line 58th with a time of 21:48.4. She was followed by freshman Jasmine Polite (Goose Creek, S.C.) in 168th-place with a time of 23:23.9, while junior Laura Transue (Anderson, S.C.) came in 211th with a time of 24:27.1. Freshman Erin Gethin (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) was 226th and sophomore Ashlyn Barnwell (York, S.C.) was 230th with times of 26:15.6 and 27:16.6, respectively.
"We have come a long way in only 5 years and have been competing and beating some great schools and programs," Blackwelder said. "When we are beating the Liberty's, Louisville's and South Carolina's of the world we know we are doing something special."
Junior Cameron Thomas (Niceville, Fla.) was the second-top finisher for the Spartan men today with a time of 32:58.5 to take the 117th slot. He was followed by sophomore Ross Oden (Salisbury, N.C.), who came in 220th-place with a time of 33.37.4.
"I'm really proud of how our guys handled the pressure and the 10k distance," Blackwelder said. "Cameron Thomas stepped up and ran a great race to be our number-two man on the team."
Junior Christian Ritacco (Niceville, Fla.) came in 156th-place with a time of 33:57.3, while classmate Davey Dennison (Carlisle, Pa.) crossed the line in 34:15.4 for the 162nd spot. Senior James Jackson (Aiken, S.C.) posted a 165th-place finish and sophomore Joey Daversa (Chesapeake, Va.) claimed 195th with times of 34:26.4 and 35.39.7, respectively.
"This meet was a great building block for our program," Blackwelder said. "With six of our top seven returning for next year, we have a great bright future."