Nov. 21, 2009

 

By John Schwarb
Special to NCAA.com

   
EVANSVILLE, Ind.--In the first event of the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships, the Adams State women weren't the odds-on favorite for a title, but they won anyway.
    
Forty minutes later, it was the men's turn. In that event, Adams State was absolutely the favorite. And they did more than deliver.
    
The Grizzlies dominated Saturday on the 10k course at the University of Southern Indiana, scoring 23 points to secure their second consecutive title. Fifteen points is a perfect score, and the senior-laden bunch wasn't off that by much.
    
Reuben Mwei won the race in 30 minutes, 27 seconds, while fellow seniors Aaron Braun (31:08) and Brian Medigovich (31:12) secured third- and fourth-place team points. Only Harding's Daniel Kirwa, the second overall finisher, who was four-tenths of a second behind Mwei, interrupted a 1-2-3 team score for Adams State.
    
Rival Western State took second with 86 points, behind by a larger margin than a year ago, when Adams State prevailed 67-88. Colorado School of Mines finished third (153) points, making it a Colorado state sweep for the top three teams.
    
"This is what I coach for, days like this," Grizzlies coach Damon Martin said.
    
The highlight was in watching Mwei, a Kenyan, respond one year after missing the Championships following a freak accident with an all-terrain vehicle. He sustained broken ribs and a collapsed lung, one week before the 2008 race at Slippery Rock, Penn.
    
"After last year, I needed to do something for the team this year," Mwei said. "For this team, I was running for the team title."
    
The race saw a blistering 4:34 first-mile pace, set by American International freshman Glarius Rop. Medigovich, Braun and Mwei closely pursued. At the 7k mark, Rop continued to lead at 21:29, with Mwei, Kirwa, Braun and Abilene Christian's Amos Sang all bunched a second behind.
    
"When they told me one mile to go, I said `I need to get moving now,'" Mwei said. "It was my last race."
    
Mwei answered, finishing first to complete a senior season in which he was the No. 1 Grizzlies runner throughout.
    
"He brings so much to our program. From diversity to fun, he brings a lot of culture to the team," Martin said of the honors student. "When the kids see a young man like this that comes from a different country and he comes into our program and he fits right along, not a prima donna, it just makes everybody work hard."
    
The likable Mwei received congratulations from teammates as well as countrymen such as Kirwa, who couldn't quite close in all the way for Harding (Searcy, Ark.).
    
"I couldn't run fast because everyone was fast. Kind of tough," Kirwa said. "The most important thing is to achieve accomplishment by finishing, I feel like I finished strong. I'm OK with that."
    
Kirwa was sixth a year ago in the snowy NCAA Championships, he much preferred the unseasonably warm day in Evansville. Temperatures topped 60 degrees with abundant sunshine.
    
"I almost passed out last year," Kirwa said. "This was much better."
    
Rop finished four seconds behind Kirwa in third and was the top finishing freshman and top finisher among individual qualifiers. Sang (30:48) was fourth.
    
Rounding out the scored runners for Adams State was junior Anthony Gauthier (31:28, seventh in team points) and senior Luke Cragg (31:38, eighth).
    
"Some didn't do as good as they're capable of; for us it was a little warmer than we're used to at this time of year," Martin said. "But overall, it's a grade A. To finish up like this is an awesome thing."