New York, NY – The UDC Men's and Women's Cross Country teams showed marked improvement on Saturday, September 15, as they competed in the CW Post Invitational in New York. Coming off the Delaware State University Invitational last week, the Firebirds turned in a strong performance Saturday.
The men's side was stacked with a field of 122 competitors for the 8-kilometer course, but the Firebirds held their own. All-American sophomore Hillary Mugun (Nandi Hills, Kenya) led the Firebirds with an impressive time of 26:48 minutes to place 6th in the event. Most notably, this time is among the twenty fastest run on the CW Post 8-kilometer course. Running against top competitors in the East Coast Conference (ECC), Mugun stayed close to the leaders and maintained his position in the field of 122 competitors.
The Firebirds were also well represented by junior Zephaniah Koech (Nandi Hills, Kenya), senior Linus Kosgei (Kapsabet, Kenya), and senior Justin Chemellan (Nandi Hills, Kenya). Koech worked his way up throughout the race to finish 34th with a time of 28:41 minutes. Kosgei placed 54th with a time of 29:33 minutes, and Chemellan rounded of the Firebird finishers in 92nd place with a time of 31:42 minutes. The Firebirds were 8th among the 12 teams that participated in the meet.
Head Coach Alton Mckenzie was very pleased with how the Firebirds ran, especially in this venue. "We achieved our objective for this meet," said Coach Mckenzie. "I thought Hillary (Mugun) ran a courageous race to finish 6th in such a strong field, most of whom were very familiar with the course."
The Lady Firebirds showed vast improvement from last week, all of whom ran faster 5-kilometer times on the much tougher course. Similar to the men, the Lady Firebirds competed against a large field (120 competitors). Senior Kaneesha Hollis (Centreville, MD) led the way and finished 50th with a time of 22:21 minutes, which was a ten second improvement from her performance last week. Similar to last week, she placed one spot ahead of junior Callister Jones (Fort Washington, MD), who finished 51st with the same time as Hollis. Junior Clarice Melvin (Lanham, MD) placed 93rd in 25:27 minutes. The Lady Firebirds finished 12th out of 14 teams.
For Coach Mckenzie, this experience was a building block for the season and an important gauge for the future. "It was important for our athletes to get familiar with the course so that we know what to expect at the ECC Championships in October." He went on to add, "I look forward to us getting back on this course at the ECC Championships."
The Firebirds look to improve in their next competition, which will be held locally on September 23rd at the Towson Invitational in Towson, MD.