Texas Tech’s Kennedy Kithuka Dominates Lawi Lalang, Stephen Sambu to Win 2012 NCAA Cross Country Title

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by: Mike Knapp for LetsRun.com
November 17, 2012

LOUISVILLE — Heading into Saturday’s 75th NCAA Division I cross country meet, neither Texas Tech junior Kennedy Kithuka or Arizona sophomore Lawi Lalang had lost a race this season.

In fact, Lalang’s winning streak had stretched back two years, as he entered the race as the defending individual champion, while Kithuka hadn’t lost in three seasons after winning two titles at NAIA Wayland Baptist before transferring to Tech this fall.

Something was going to have to give as the pair headed to the starting line, and 10K later it was Kithuka who took home the individual championship, covering the 10K course at HP “Tom” Sawyer Park in a time of 28:38, which shattered the previous course record by over a minute.

“The way i raced today is the way I train,” Kithuka said. “I keep consistent with the pace in my training. If I’m dong 800s, 1K or mile repeats, I have to keep the pace.”

Kennedy Kithuka Celebrates 2012 NCAA Title

With sunny skies, a slight breeze and temperatures in the mid-50s, Saturday’s conditions were near perfect as the men’s race went off in the early afternoon. Kithuka, Lalang and Arizona junior Stephen Sambu took the race out at a torrid pace, posting back-to-back 4:32 miles to hit the two-mile mark in 9:04.

As the race hit the midway point, the trio had put some considerate distance between themselves and the rest of the field, and were trying to break each other with constant surges.

Around the 6K mark, Kithuka put in a surge that broke him free from the two Arizona teammates, and he continued pulling away. Lalang soon fell out the back behind Sambu as the top three runners became well strung out.

Kithuka continued to push the pace and could have dropped the course record even lower had he not slowed to celebrate in the home stretch. Not only did he break the course record, he ran the fastest fourth fastest twinning time in NCAA history.

In all, the entire men’s Top 10 went under the course record.

“I have confidence in myself and that I could run with Sambu and Lalang,” Kithuka said. “(Whatever pace) they were going, I was willing to go with them. They are good guys who I knew could sit and kick, so I had to keep the pace constant (and fast).”

Kithuka Had Some Company

Lalang, who has a 5K PR of 13:07, took the loss in stride and felt he could do nothing more than tip his hat to someone who just ran better. “There was nothing else I can do, it was his day,” Lalang said. “I’m a 1500, 5K guy so when they go that fast it is a disadvantage to me. I wasn’t able to cover him, but I am OK with (my finish). That guy was strong, you see what he ran, that is really incredible.”

QT#1: Kennedy Kithuka. Cool name, fast dude. Facing the best for the first time in XC, he made it look easy.

QT #2: Not a good day for the Americans. Girma Mecheso was the first American in fifth place. We said in our preview it was possible an American born athlete wasn’t in the top 10 and that was the case as Maverick Darling was first American born in 11th. Mecheso was born in Ethiopia. Cool story on him here.

QT #3: So much for Lalang winning 4 NCAA titles.  Even more surprising was that his teammate Sambu beat him.

Top Results

PLPtsNameBibYRTeamTime1k PaceMile Pace
1Kennedy Kithuka640JRTexas Tech28:31.32:524:36
2Stephen Sambu403SRArizona28:38.62:524:37
3Lawi Lalang402SOArizona28:51.82:544:39
4Anthony Rotich661FRUTEP29:13.52:564:43
51Girma Mecheso577SROK State29:14.82:564:43
5Henry Lelei639SRTexas A&M29:14.82:564:43
7David Rooney508SRMcNeese State29:21.32:574:44
82Mohammed Ahmed692SRWisconsin29:23.92:574:44
93Tom Farrell573JROK State29:26.32:574:45
10Paul Chelimo657JRUNC-Greensboro29:29.82:574:45
114Maverick Darling695SRWisconsin29:30.52:574:45
125Reed Connor694SRWisconsin29:31.42:584:45
136Zachary Mayhew489SRIndiana29:32.82:584:46
147Jared Ward419JRBYU29:33.42:584:46
158Brian Shrader551JRN. Arizona29:37.72:584:46
169Andrew Colley539JRN.C. State29:39.52:584:47
1710Kemoy Campbell404JRArkansas29:41.52:594:47
1811Shadrack Kipchirchir575JROK State29:43.02:594:47
1912Ryan Dohner630JRTexas29:43.22:594:47
2013Chris O’Hare644JRTulsa29:46.42:594:48
2114Jakub Zivec462JRFL State29:47.72:594:48
2215Zach Gates671SRVirginia29:48.32:594:48
2316Mitch Goose500SRIona29:48.72:594:48
2417Joseph Manilafasha576JROK State29:48.82:594:48
2518Lane Werley654SOUCLA29:49.52:594:48

LRC Team Recap Oklahoma State Makes it Three Titles in Four Years Wisconsin had 3 runners in before OSU, but Oklahoma State was much better at 4 and 5. OSU was led by Girma Mechesowho was the top American in fifth.

*Full Results

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LRC visitor David Graham sent us this list of people who have run faster than Kithuka at NCAAs. 5 of them were at the 1976 meet. Here is an excellent discussion on the message boards of the 1976 race.
1. Henry Rono 28:06 (1976)
2. Samson Kimobwa 28:16  (1976)
3. Henry Rono 28:19 (1979)
4. Craig Virgin 28:26 (1976)
5. Alberto Salazar 28:27 (1979)
6. Herb Lindsay 28:30 (1976)
7. Henry Rono 28:33 (1977)
8. John Treacy 28:34 (1976)
9. Kennedy Kithuka 28:38 (2012)

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