LEVELLAND — The South Plains College men's and women's cross country teams travel to El Paso on Saturday looking to bring home national gold at the NJCAA Half Marathon National Championships.
Hosted by El Paso Community College, the race will begin at 6900 Delta Drive, with the women's race slated for a 9 a.m. MST start, with the men set to kick off at 9:15. The course runs through Ascarate Park, which is the largest public-use recreational park in El Paso County featuring a lake, scenic boardwalk, golf course, and other amenities. After running through the park, athletes will then run on the City of El Paso's newly opened Paso Del Norte Trail. This multi-use recreational trail runs from Ascarate Park to Riverside Park on the historic Playa Drain near the U.S.-Mexico border.
South Plains is looking to win it's first Half Marathon title since the Texans' 2015 crown on their home course in Levelland. The Lady Texans earned a fourth-place national finish at the NJCAA Cross Country National Championships in Albuquerque, placing four runners in the top 21, looking for similar results Saturday as the top three runners score for each team.
"If you go back and look at our top four girls they all had season personal best, which is what you want for them to peak at that time," South Plains cross country coach Frank Barker said. "The effort that was put out by these young ladies was phenomenal, when you have kids who run a fill minute personal best, that speaks well for them.
"It's going to be the same ole nemesis with El Paso, New Mexico JC, and you can never count out Iowa Central, and if you go back and look at the results from the national cross country meet, we're all in the mix. Our kids want to win and are going in with a winning attitude, and that's huge – you have to believe in yourself."
The Lady Texans finished with 135 points in Albuquerque, with Iowa Central placing first with 60 points, followed by New Mexico JC with 107, and El Paso CC with 125. South Plains placed four runners in the top 21 and two in the top 10, including sophomore All-American Gladys Jemaiyo who placed third nationally with a time of 17:15 in the women's 5k.
Sophomore Dorcus Ewoi wasn't far behind, turning in a final time of 18:09 for an eighth-place overall finish. Itzel Garcia-Santos earned a 20th place overall finish, clocking a 19:15 for the Lady Texans, while Daisy Kibet placed 21st in a time of 19:16, each earning All-American honors. The Texans competed with two runners at the national meet, with freshman Abdirizak Ibrahim earning All-American honors for South Plains. The Amarillo native turned in a final time of 25:25 in the men's 8k with an average mile of 5:07, placing 24th overall.