AUBURN – Spurred by senior Alfred Chelanga’s second-place finish, the Alabama men finished sixth at the 2018 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships at Indian Pines Golf Course in Auburn, Ala., on Friday.
Chelanga’s finish marks the third time in the last four seasons that Alabama has landed at least one runner in the top three in the men’s cross country championships. Antibahs Kosgei won the 2015 SEC title while Vincent Kiprorp, Gilbert Kigen and Chelanga finished 1-2-3, respectively, at the 2017 meet.
“I think Alfred ran a gutsy race against a tough competitor and did a great job,” Alabama head coach Dan Waters said. “He gave it everything he had and I couldn’t be more proud of his effort. As far as the whole team, those six guys ran the toughest I’ve ever seen them run together and I’m very proud of the way they raced today. They went out there and ran their absolute best race on the day it mattered the most.”
Chelanga covered the 8,000-meter course in 22:27.6 for the runner-up finish. Senior Connor Ferrentino finished 20th in 23:35.8 while junior J.P. Brinyark finished 37th in 24:02.1. Juniors Clay Austell (24:09.9) and Oliver Rigg (24:31.4) finished 49th and 62nd, respectively, to round out the scoring for Alabama.
In the women’s championship, junior Esther Gitahi was the top finisher for the Tide, crossing the finish line in 22nd place in a time of 20:06.67 over the 6,000-meter course. Fellow juniors Rebecca Buteau (20:23.57) and McKenzie Yanek (20:36.41) finished 30th and 45th, respectively while sophomore Maddie Dearborn finished 70th in 21:03.19 and senior Nicole Gardner finished 83rd in 21:15.05 to round out the scoring for UA.
Alabama finished ninth as a team in the women’s championship. UA’s 242 team points equaled the total of Kentucky but the Wildcats won the tie-breaker for eighth place.
“I thought we showed a lot of composure and maturity today racing in the most competitive field of the season,” women’s distance coach Will Palmer said. “They ran a really tough back half and I’m really proud of how fearlessly they raced. Esther showed a lot of fight out there and I think she’ll continue to use that as positive momentum throughout the rest of this season and on into track as well.”
Next up for the Crimson Tide will be the NCAA South Regional on Friday, Nov. 9, in Tallahassee, Fla.