The Eastern Kentucky University men’s and women’s cross country teams open the 2017 season on Friday evening at the Morehead State Eagle Opener.
The meet will be held at the Eagle Cross Country Course in Morehead, formerly known as Sunnybrook Golf Course.
The women’s 5K is set to begin at 6:45 p.m. ET, followed immediately by the men’s 5K.
EKU will be joined at the meet by host Morehead State, Kentucky and Marshall.
The Colonels dominated the event last year. Both teams placed five runners in the top six, as sophomore Fred Kanda won the men’s race and junior All-American Charlotte Imer won the women’s race.
Both teams open the season ranked No. 6 in the NCAA Southeast Region and both are favorites to win the Ohio Valley Conference again this year.
The following is a preview of the 2017 cross country season.
It will be a new-look men’s cross country team this fall, as the Colonels graduated consistent All-Southeast Region performers Amos Kosgey and Ambrose Maritim, as well as sub-14:00 5K guys Jaime Escriche (a 2015 cross country All-American) and Luis Luna (a two-time NCAA regional qualifier in the outdoor 5,000 meters).
However, EKU does return some veteran leadership. Junior Erick Rotich, arguably the Colonels’ top runner last season, is back. Rotich is the two-time defending OVC Male Cross Country Runner of the Year, and he was the Colonels’ lone NCAA cross country qualifier last fall.
Junior Jamaine Coleman is also expected to play a key role this year. Coleman labored through a mediocre cross country season in 2016, but rebounded with a star-making turn during the track season. The native of Preston, England was voted the OVC Male Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year and he was named second team All-America after finishing 13th in the steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Oregon (8:34.1).
With so much talent gone from last year, other returners such as seniors Jakob Abrahamsen (2016 steeplechase All-American), Tom Koringo (3:45 1,500 meters PB) and Sergio Mena (24:11 8K PB), junior Samuel Abascal (2017 NCAA regional qualifier in the steeplechase) and sophomores Kanda (24:50 8K PB) and Zach Stewart (2017 OVC bronze medalist in the 5,000 meters) will be expected to step up this fall.
Talented transfers Addison Monroe (a 2016 Division II cross country All-American at Lock Haven) and Jaime Romo (14:13 5K PB), as well as freshmen Lucas Kiprotich (Eldoret, Kenya), Zak Kirk (Maumee, Ohio) and Remi Schyns (Liege, Belgium) could also emerge as top-seven guys.
The women’s cross country team, on the other hand, enters 2017 stocked with veteran talent. The Colonels will look to improve upon last year’s seventh-place regional finish, and they may have the roster to do it.
Imer headlines the group. Imer – a native of Melbourne, Australia – finished 31st at the NCAA Championships last November, marking the best national finish ever by an EKU woman. She followed that up by becoming the first EKU woman ever to break the 16-minute barrier in the 5,000 meters (15:59.3) and earned second team All-America honors after finishing 14th in the 5K at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Oregon.
Imer will be flanked by several decorated teammates, including seniors Luisa Boschan (2016 NCAA All-Southeast Region in cross country / 2017 NCAA regional qualifier in the 5,000 meters – 16:20.9), Haley Yost (2017 OVC champion and NCAA regional qualifier in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters) and Ciara Scott (EKU record holder and 2017 OVC champion in the steeplechase – 10:23.0), juniors Gladys Cheruiyot (2016 second team All-OVC) and Meggan Grams (2015 second team All-OVC) and sophomore Lilian Jeptoo Kiborus (2016 OVC Female Freshman of the Year).
Senior Katt Grasberger, junior Leah Polycarpou, sophomore Lauren Ossege and freshman Haley Holbrook and Olivia Schoenherr could also contribute this fall.
The 2017 Ohio Valley Conference Cross Country Championships will be held October 28 in Charleston, Illinois. It marks the first time the championship has been there since 2005.
The NCAA Championships will be held at E.P. ‘Tom’ Sawyer Park in Louisville this year, on November 18.
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