By Sam Draut–
The University of Louisville men’s cross country team capped off their season with two consecutive strong performances culminating with a seventh place finish at the NCAA Championship on Saturday at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park on Saturday.
The seventh place finish is the best in school history. In 2008, the Cardinals finished ninth, its only other top-ten finish in the NCAA Championship.
Seven Cardinals competed in the 31-team, 252-runner field. Senior Ernest Kibet had the best finish for Louisville, posting a time of 30:09.4 in the 10K race, placing him eighteenth.
“I have been working hard all year round,” Kibet said.
Following Kibet, junior Edwin Kibichiy finished with a time of 30:29.8, good for forty-first place.
Kibet and Kibichiy were both returning All-Americans for Louisville, and once again, Kibet earned All-American honors.
Senior Japhet Kipkoech finished just outside of the top-50 at fifty-third after running the 6.2 mile race in 30:34.9.
After setting his personal best on 10K run last weekend, Calvin Chemoiye was a minute and three seconds slower this time around, placing eighty-eighth, running a time of 30:51.9.
The final three runners finished in the back forty of the field.
Junior George Yator placed 211th after running a 32:15. Freshman Daniel Fleace ran the race in 33:07.3, finishing 241st.
Matt Stephenson was the final Cardinal to cross the finish line, coming in 247th after running 33:31.
Louisville’s strong close to season was sparked by the school’s first ever NCAA Southeast Regional win last weekend at Panaroma Farms in Earlysville, Virginia. Louisville earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship after the victory.
The win at the NCAA Southeast Regional earned Louisville the national ranking of fourteenth in the final USTFCCA Top 30 Poll.
“It was the first time all year that we were able to show what we had,” assistant coach Joe Walker said. “We knew what we were capable of.”
It was the second time E.P. Tom Sawyer Park has hosted the NCAA Championship, the first time in 2012.
“Tom Sawyer is probably not as large of a home course advantage because it has been used and hosted so many great championships,” coach Dale Cowper said. “But our guys know the course.”
Kibet ran the course in the 2012 national championship and said it wasn’t a major advantage because so many runners had been on the course before, but it is nice to have support from Louisville fans and other members of Louisville athletics.