By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech cross country athletes won both of the Runner of the Week awards given out by the Ohio Valley Conference on Tuesday following Tech's season-opening Golden Eagle Invitational Saturday.
Sammy Kipkirui was selected as the league's Male Runner of the Week for the first time in his TTU career, while classmate Purity Sanga claimed the title on the women's side for the second time.
Kipkirui earned his first career individual victory in front of the home crowd at the 2018 Golden Eagle Invitational presented by Hometown IGA. The sophomore clocked a four-mile time of 20:16.8, nearly eight seconds better than the runner-up, Luke Landis of Ohio State.
Kipkirui's time was a major reason the Tech men's team nearly claimed first place with a combined 29 points, but fell just short to the 26 scored by Big Ten opponent Ohio State.
Converted to an eight-kilometer distance, the 2017 Western Kentucky transfer was on pace to finish in 25:12.2, which would have been his third-fastest result in a Tennessee Tech uniform and good enough for No. 18 on TTU's all-time list.
Sanga, a freshman standout for Tech last season, continued her momentum in her sophomore debut, winning the women's race at the Golden Eagle Invitational with a six-kilometer time of 17:50.5.
It was the first career individual victory and fifth top-ten overall finish for Sanga, who dominated the rest of the field, coming in almost 1:20 ahead of teammate Janet Kwambai, the runner-up.
Sanga, Kwambai and another freshman, Sharon Chepkemboi, gave TTU a 1-2-3 finish in the race and keyed a team score of 19 that won the event convincingly.
Sanga's time is the eighth-best in program history, as she now owns four of the top 10 entries in the record book. It marks the fourth instance in Sanga's career that she has finished a 5K in less than 18 minutes, and she has now strung together six consecutive meets in which she has been the first Golden Eagle across the finish line.
Tech cross country swept the OVC Runner of the Week awards once during the 2017 campaign when Sanga won her first award and Gilbert Boit won the men's honor on September 26.