By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Tennessee Tech cross country team produced another set of headlines at the 2018 Florida Mountain Dew Invitational, as Purity Sanga clocked the first sub-17-minute 5K time in Tech history, and the men's team replicated its runner-up finish from a season ago.
One week after etching her name into the women's record book with the best 5K time in TTU history, sophomore Purity Sanga outdid herself this time, burning up the track on UF's Mark Bostick Golf Course with a time of 16-minutes, 41.58-seconds for her second consecutive runner-up overall finish.
The Kapsabet, Kenya native's mark is an improvement of more than 39 seconds on her own record, and moves her into a class of her own, separating her from any other name in TTU lore by more than 48 seconds.
"Purity was amazing again today," said coach Wayne Angel. "To see her run like that with a 40-second personal best was incredible to watch. The only female to her beat her (Florida's Jessica Pascoe) is another outstanding runner."
Pascoe paced the field of 270 women's runners with a time of 16:13.87, and led the Gators to the team victory with 80 points.
Kwambai was 14th overall with a time of 17:38.31, which was faster than Sanga's time from last year's Mountain Dew Invitational, and establishes her as a top-10 runner in Tech history with the seventh-best 5K time ever. It was also a massive personal best of more than a full minute for the freshman from Iten, Kenya, and her first top-15 finish at a big meet.
Chepkemboi also broke the 18-minute barrier for the first time in her career, and shaved almost 39 seconds off her previous best, clocking a time of 17:58.08 for 24th overall. It was also good enough to move her up to No. 14 on Tech's all-time 5K list.
"Janet and Sharon raced exceptionally well," said Angel. "Both had outstanding personal bests and had key roles in a women's team effort that I was very pleased with."
Ashley Daniel and D'Airrien Jackson were Tech's fourth and fifth runners, coming in at 24:03.48 and 24:25.74.
Daniel made a great improvement on her only other result in a TTU uniform, a 26:30.4 in the season-opening Golden Eagle Invitational.
It was Jackson's first trek of the season.
"The women will continue to train hard and race smart," Angel said. "In due time, we will reap the reward of our hard work."
For as good as the Tech men's team was last week in Nashville, it was even better on Saturday, as all five Golden Eagles finished in the top 20 and accumulated just 46 total points for a second-place finish.
"The men were awesome today," Angel said. "Their unity and pack formation were outstanding. They raced with a ton of grit and almost all of them had new personal bests because of it. I am so proud of them."
Four of five Tech runners notched new career bests, including Sammy Kipkirui, who led TTU's pack for the third straight race with an 8K time of 24:27.8.
The redshirt sophomore moved into the top 10 on TTU's all-time 8K list at No. 7, broke the 25-minute mark for the second time, and finished in less than 24 and a half minutes for the first time in his career.
Benard Sigei took sixth place and added his own entry to the all-time top 10, with a new-personal-best time of 24:39.3. It was the first-ever top-eight finish for Sigei, and a 56-second improvement on his previous career mark.
Brannon Cheplak finish eighth with a time of 24:43.4, the second-best time of his career. Cheplak's time was also 16.6 seconds better than his 25:06.0 from last year at the Mountain Dew.
Ababu Mohamed emphatically broke 26 minutes for the first time is his career, as he came across the finish line in 25:11.1 for 15th place, more than 50 seconds faster than his previous best mark.
Gabriel Kiprono was the No. 5, and turned in a new best of 25:25.2 for 19th overall. Kiprono's time gave him nearly a 44-second reduction between the first and second eight-kilometer races of his collegiate career, and shrunk Tech's 1-5 spread under the one-minute plateau to 57.4 seconds.
This makes two straight eight-kilometer weekends that the Tech men have made marked improvements, and Angel expects that trend to continue throughout the season.
"We are still in the strength phase of our training program," he said. "As soon as we begin our speed phase we will be awfully good. The way we're progressing, every meet can bring some pretty exciting things."
Both Tech teams will finish their stretch of four meets in four weeks with the Greater Louisville Classic next Saturday, September 29.
Photo by Thomas Corhern