MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin cross country squads will look to trust its training and progression in an attempt to outmatch early season projections with a strong performance at the Ohio Valley Conference Cross Country Championship which will be contested on Saturday, Oct. 28 at Panther Trail Course in Charleston, Ill. The men’s 8k race will begin at 9 a.m. with the women’s 5k following at 10 a.m.
It marks the first time in which Eastern Illinois has hosted the event since 2005. This will be the 57th OVC men’s championship – dating back to 1962 – while marking the 39th women’s championship. The meet is free and open to the public.
The Skyhawk men enter the OVC Championships surging as of late to garner a South Regional ranking on three separate occasions during the season. Entering the Championships sitting 14th in the South Region, the Skyhawks are one of four conference program’s ranked as of late joining Eastern Kentucky (No. 5, Southeast), Belmont (No. 8, South) and Tennessee Tech (No. 15, South). With the strong season of performances, UT Martin is looking to blow past preseason predictions which had the squad picked to finish sixth in the field after a sixth place finish a year ago. The team’s best-ever OVC finish was fifth in 2011.
UT Martin is led by standout sophomore Edwin Kurgat to who will carry the heavy lifting in his second Championship appearance. In his two brief years donning a Skyhawk uniform, Kurgat has paced the squad in every collegiate meet while winning three individual titles. For his strong performances this season, he has earned a school-record three OVC Runner of the Week honors. Single-handedly re-writing the record books, Kurgat has posted five of the program’s six fastest times while running the second-fastest time in the OVC this season with a 23:40.96 performance at the Greater Louisville Classic.
The squad will look to a handful of contributors to round out the scoring five for the Skyhawks. Look for the Kurgat to be joined by sophomores Ryan Ford, Austin Rogers and Marcos Macias along with freshmen Brian Chelide, Andrew Dodson and Daniel Smith as potential scorers.
On the women’s side, UT Martin will attempt to prove that the squad’s early season regional ranking was no fluke. Ranking as high as 14th in the South Region, the Skyhawks were projected to finish fifth in the quest for an OVC title – serving as the highest prediction in program history. The team’s best-ever OVC finish was fourth in 1995.
The Skyhawks are paced by sophomore Kara Martin who has led the squad in every meet this season. Martin’s best 5k time of the season was 17:46.6 at the Stegemoller Classic National Preview, which ranked as the seventh fastest time in the OVC this season.
Rounding out the potential scoring five for the Skyhawks will be a mixture of sophomore Nelly Kandie, senior Amelia Martin, freshman Lydia Lee, sophomore Sydney Larkin, sophomore Agok Ayuen, senior Kiana Hope and sophomore Natalie Motor.
“The rankings, times and stats go out the window,” said UT Martin head coach Peter Dalton. “The OVC Championships come down to who wants it more and I’m confident our squads are in a determined mindset.”