The Crimson White

UA heads to national championship

Junior Carison Kemei runs at the Crimson Classic earlier this season. The men's cross country team will head into nationals with a chance to compete for the national championship. UA Athletics | Amelia J. Brackin

Mike Albanese

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The University’s men’s cross country team has secured a spot in the National Championship field after a dominating performance at the NCAA South Regional in Hoover.

This, their fourth consecutive regional title, has earned them a slot to compete for the NCAA National title in Terre Haute, Ind., starting Nov. 22.

“This year, it had a special feeling,” head coach Joe Walker said. “Seeing these guys come together and perform at a high level brought a smile to my face.”

All five of the Tide runners finished in the top 13, highlighted by dazzling performances by junior Carison Kemei and senior Julius Bor who finished second and third, respectively. Kemei posted a time of 30:05.08, two seconds behind the leader, Florida State’s Ciaran O’Lionaird. Bor finished one second behind Kemei with a time of 30:06.96.

“They both ran with a sense of urgency,” Walker said. “They got themselves to the front and contended for the lead.”

As a unit on the 10km course, the Tide collected 30 points to win the event by 25 points. All five Tide runners earned All-Region honors.

“After I crossed the finishing line, I knew we were going to win,” junior Joel Rop said. “That’s what we were looking for.”

He also said it felt good to put together a great performance against strong teams such as Florida State University.

“I think it was more of a mentality they brought,” Walker said. “They wanted to compete well as a group and they were capable of it.”

Heading into the regional tournament, Bor said they did a lot of fartlek workouts in preparation for the tournament.

A fartlek workout is a form of conditioning which puts stress on the whole aerobic energy system due to the continuous nature of the exercise. The difference between fartlek workouts and other exercise systems is that the speed and intensity varies, which puts more stress on the aerobic and anaerobic systems.

Along with Kemei and Bor, Rop, junior Moses Kiptoo and senior Andrew Kirwa posted strong times.

With a fifth place finish and a time of 30:13.23, Rop continued what has been a strong season. Kiptoo posted a time of 30:23.70 for a ninth place finish and Kirwa posted a time of 30:37.96 which earned him a 13th place finish and his fourth All-South honor.

Heading into nationals, it is important that the Tide does not lose focus. Walker emphasized the importance of bringing the same mindset and effort they brought to the Regional Championship into nationals.

“You’d like to duplicate that effort from last week and see another performance similar,” Walker said. “Sometimes in our sport you have a high following followed by a low. We have to come back with another great performance and we need to get into similar mindset.”

Walker said there are four or five teams that are running great week in and week out. Also, he said there are 10 teams, including his squad, that are talented and capable of competing with anyone.

However, it doesn’t matter what the teams did at the regional tournament. It’s important who shows up when it matters the most.

“On that day everyone is identical on paper,” Walker said. “It’s how you perform on that day.”

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UA heads to national championship