The MTSU men’s and women’s cross country team traveled to Bowling Green last Saturday from the 2012 Sun Belt Cross Country Championships.
Both teams finished in the top five in the overall races with the men’s finishing third and the women’s fourth. Three Blue Raider runners were named All-SBC after their performances during the event.
“The women saved their best race for last,” MTSU head cross county coach Keith Vroman said. “While the men ran a solid race.”
The men were led by sophomore Robinson Simatei, who was born in Kenya and a Texas Tech transfer, and he has been the top finishing runner for the Blue Raider men’s team in every event the team has competed in this season. The SBC championships were no different has Simatei was third in the eight kilometer (4.97 mile) men’s race in a time of 25 minutes and 13.90 seconds.
His best finish of the season was runner-up on two separate occasions, The PowerAde Invitational on Sept. 7 and the Frontrunner Invitational on Oct. 10. However, both of those were only 5K races. His best 8K finish was sixth at the Greater Louisville Classic on Sept. 29.
Vroman has been pleased with Simatei’s performance this season.
“He was motivated to do his part for the team and be third in the SBC Championships,” Vroman said. “The motivation worked, and he did all he could do at that SBC Championships. The two guys who beat him are seniors. If he gets motivated to win in 2012, he will have a shot at the title.”
Five other MTSU men’s runners also finished in the Top 35 led by former Oakland High star Keith Davis, who finished 17th with a time of 26:01.80.
Overall, the men finished third in the team standings with 85 points. Arkansas-Little Rock won the overall men’s title, while WKU’s Joseph Chebet won the individual race in a time of 24:46.70.
While the women were led by the duo of freshman Julia Kitevski and junior Autumn Gipson. Both runners have been taking turns in the top spot this season.
In the SBC finals, Kitevski finished sixth with a time of 18:17.20, and Gipson was 13th in a time of 18:45.20. Both were named All-SBC after the race for their performances on the 5K (3.10 mile) course.
Gipson has performed well on the short distances, while Kitevski excels on the longer courses.
This season, Gipson has finished in the top four, twice on two-mile courses, including a season-best third on Oct. 13 at the Frontrunner Invitational in Chattanooga.
Vroman likes the way both runners have pushed each other and the rest of the team this season.
“The women have worked hard all season,” Vroman said. “Team training has paid off for the women. Gipson has been our leader all year. Kitevski has adjusted well to the new training this fall and has performed well.”
In the SBC meet, the Lady Raiders finished in fourth in the final team standings with 113 points.
Newest member of the conference, Georgia State won the team title, and its star runner Katharine Showalter won the individual women’s race in a time of 17:41.10.
Both Blue Raider cross country teams' seasons are now complete.