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

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.

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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

PL Pts Name Bib YR Team Time 1k Pace Mile Pace
1 Kennedy Kithuka 640 JR Texas Tech 28:31.3 2:52 4:36
2 Stephen Sambu 403 SR Arizona 28:38.6 2:52 4:37
3 Lawi Lalang 402 SO Arizona 28:51.8 2:54 4:39
4 Anthony Rotich 661 FR UTEP 29:13.5 2:56 4:43
5 1 Girma Mecheso 577 SR OK State 29:14.8 2:56 4:43
5 Henry Lelei 639 SR Texas A&M 29:14.8 2:56 4:43
7 David Rooney 508 SR McNeese State 29:21.3 2:57 4:44
8 2 Mohammed Ahmed 692 SR Wisconsin 29:23.9 2:57 4:44
9 3 Tom Farrell 573 JR OK State 29:26.3 2:57 4:45
10 Paul Chelimo 657 JR UNC-Greensboro 29:29.8 2:57 4:45
11 4 Maverick Darling 695 SR Wisconsin 29:30.5 2:57 4:45
12 5 Reed Connor 694 SR Wisconsin 29:31.4 2:58 4:45
13 6 Zachary Mayhew 489 SR Indiana 29:32.8 2:58 4:46
14 7 Jared Ward 419 JR BYU 29:33.4 2:58 4:46
15 8 Brian Shrader 551 JR N. Arizona 29:37.7 2:58 4:46
16 9 Andrew Colley 539 JR N.C. State 29:39.5 2:58 4:47
17 10 Kemoy Campbell 404 JR Arkansas 29:41.5 2:59 4:47
18 11 Shadrack Kipchirchir 575 JR OK State 29:43.0 2:59 4:47
19 12 Ryan Dohner 630 JR Texas 29:43.2 2:59 4:47
20 13 Chris O’Hare 644 JR Tulsa 29:46.4 2:59 4:48
21 14 Jakub Zivec 462 JR FL State 29:47.7 2:59 4:48
22 15 Zach Gates 671 SR Virginia 29:48.3 2:59 4:48
23 16 Mitch Goose 500 SR Iona 29:48.7 2:59 4:48
24 17 Joseph Manilafasha 576 JR OK State 29:48.8 2:59 4:48
25 18 Lane Werley 654 SO UCLA 29:49.5 2:59 4:48

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

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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