By Layne Weitzel, TTU Sports Information
CHARLESTON, Ill. – The Tennessee Tech men's cross country postseason begins Saturday with the 2017 OVC Cross Country Championship, which features a tough field of all 12 OVC teams. Five teams, including Tech, are ranked regionally by the USTFCCCA.
"We are very excited and eager to be competing in the OVC championships this week," said head coach Wayne Angel. "It looks to be an outstanding championship on both sides."
The championship will be held at the Panther Trail course in Charleston, Illinois, marking the first time that Eastern Illinois has hosted the race since 2005. Tech's 8k race will go off at 9 a.m. CT.
"I am very impressed with the parity of the men's teams in this year's championship," said Angel. "EKU looks to be the hands-down favorite, but after that, the competition for team places second through fourth is wide open. There will be five regionally ranked teams competing in this championship – it should be a fast and thrilling race."
As a team, Tech has held a spot in the South Region rankings the entire season. Its highest ranking was at 10th for the week of Sept. 25, which tied the highest-ever ranking for the program.
Tech placed fifth at the OVC championship a year ago, its best finish since 2009. Then-freshman Gilbert Boit won the individual title with a time of 24:20.9, earning him Athlete of the Championship and OVC Freshman of the Year honors.
Boit looks to be in good position to defend his title Saturday and could become the first repeat conference champion since Eastern Kentucky's Soufiane Bouchikhi collected four individual titles during his time as a Colonel. He has lost just one meet this year, finishing 19th out of 282 runners at Pre-Nationals two weeks ago, and enters Saturday with the fastest 8k time in the conference (23:29.6), which also counts as one of the fastest in the country.
"We have raced well up to this point," said Angel. "I am confident that the positive momentum that we have going into this meet will be a big boost for us. Our fourth through sixth group is coming into peak form, and our top group, led by Gilbert Boit, Brannon Cheplak and Sammy Kipkirui are fired up and ready to go.
"We need to manage ourselves and take care of the things that we can control. We must be mentally tough and fearless. If we can do those things and execute our race plan, we will accomplish our mission."