Patrick Kiprop defends South Central title, Arkansas advances as runner-up

FAYETTEVILLE – Razorback Patrick Kiprop defended his individual title at the NCAA South Central Region meet as Arkansas finished runner-up in team scoring to secure an automatic qualification to the NCAA Championships for the 12th consecutive year.

“I felt good racing on our home course,” stated Kiprop. “It was an easy race for us as we wanted to finish among the top two teams to qualify for nationals. We also wanted to conserve some energy to be ready for next week too. This race was a warm-up for the national championships.”

Kiprop covered the 10,000m course in 28:38.8 with teammate Kirami Yego finishing second in 28:43.0 as UA scored 52 points. Texas, the team winner with 34 points, claimed 3-4-5 positions behind the leading pair of Razorbacks. Davis Hart led the Longhorns in placing third in 28:44.6.

“It’s tough when you’re running against Texas,” said Arkansas men’s head coach Chris Bucknam. “We both want to accomplish the same thing, and that’s just be in the top two to get to the next meet. It’s always fun to run against Texas, and they’re ranked right behind us nationally.

“Juices were flowing a little bit, but I think they ran under control. With the top guys from Texas and our top guys they just idle at a higher speed. They need to stretch their legs and run. They ran very fast today, but I think that’s how they feel good and keep their rhythm going into the next meet.”

Tulane, who qualified a pair of individuals for the NCAA Championships, finished third in team scoring with 77 points. Arkansas State finished fourth ahead of Incarnate Work in a tie-break with each team scoring 157 points.

The rest of the top 10 included Texas A&M (178), Rice (187), Sam Houston (276), UT Arlington (292), and Little Rock (302).

In the final stages of the race Kiprop and Yego passed Hart to complete the 1-2 finish for Arkansas. Conversations between the two Razorbacks set up what they planned near the end of the race.

“We were talking during the race,” Kiprop said. “For the last five miles we stayed consistent without pushing to hard too early. We waited and then went for it in the last mile. I feel good about being a two-time South Central Region champion.”

Yego added: “Going into the race today we just wanted to relax and chill. At first the Texas guy tried to go out hard. So, we said, ‘ok, he wants to race, just relax man.’

“With 1k to go I told Patrick to go get that guy and let me relax. We don’t want to let this guy win on our course. Patrick passed him, and then I caught him and we were able to go 1-2. I was happy for Patrick and me to finish 1-2.”

Completing the Arkansas team score were Lexington Hilton (30:02.4), Jacob McLeod (30:05.4), and Tommy Romanow (30:19.8) as the trio placed 14-15-20. Jack Williams was the sixth and final Razorback in the race, placing 40th (31:02.9). The first five Razorbacks earned All-Region for placing among the top 25 in a field of 177 runners.

“I think we had a really outstanding team effort today,” said Bucknam. “I’m very pleased with the front end with Patrick and Kirami. They did a great job.

“In the middle with Lexington and Jacob, then Tommy Romanow ran another what I call a gritty race. He did a great job and caught a lot of people in the last mile and secured our second place finish and our automatic qualifying.”

Coach Bucknam rested other members of the team ahead the NCAA Championships being held next week on Saturday, November 18, at the Panorama Farms course in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Most of those guys are our middle distance type runners,” noted Bucknam. “It’s really a 10k game this time of year, so any advantage I can give them to do well against the 10k runners when we get to the national championship the better off we are.

“We kind of rolled the dice a little bit, but I’m just pleased with the efforts we got from Jack Williams and Tommy. Those guys have been running well all year. They might not get a chance to run at nationals, but they helped get us get there.”

Individuals not on an advancing team qualifying for the national championship race were Tulane’s duo of Bradley Makuvire (6th, 29:25.1) and Jack Jennings (7th, 29:27.1) along with Texas A&M’s Eric Casarez (8th, 29:29.4), and Victor Neiva of North Texas (10th, 29:41.7).