By RICK PETERSON
Washburn University senior star David Kibet ran the race of his life in the recent MIAA cross country championships, leading from start to finish en route to the individual title while leading the Ichabods to a program-best second-place team finish at Gans Creek Country Club in Columbia, Mo.
Now Kibet and the Ichabods will try to follow that up with another strong performance in Saturday's NCAA Central Regional Championships at the Tom Rutledge Cross Country Course in Joplin, Mo.
A native of Eldoret, Kenya, Kibet ran the second-fastest eight-kilometer time in WU program history at the MIAA meet, clocking a time of 24 minutes, 00.92 seconds, and he topped his previous time at the Gans Creek Course by 36 seconds from 2022. Kibet became Washburn's first individual champion at the MIAA meet since former Hayden star Jacob Klemz won the title in 2017.
"The last four years I've been trying and I've come up short sometimes but this time was my time,'' Kibet said.
Kibet won by just over four seconds over Central Missouri's Brian Mitei and six seconds in front of three-time MIAA champ Gidieon Kimutai of Missouri Southern.
"Last week it was a different game,'' Kibet said. "A different game plan, everything was different. In the past I would start from behind and then come up, but last week I just went ahead and I just stayed there. I was just chasing the cart.''
Kibet admitted that he even surprised himself with his MIAA performance.
"It was my first win ever, so I didn't expect it,'' he said. "I knew I could push them but I did not expect to be first.''
On Saturday teams and individuals will be aiming to qualify for a return trip to Joplin for the NCAA Division II Championships on Nov. 18. The Ichabod men's team is looking to make its second straight to the national meet after last season's trip to Seattle, Washington for their first-ever trip to the national championships.
"Now I feel like I'm more ready than ever for regionals,'' Kibet said. "
Saturday's women's six-kilometer race is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. followed by the men's 10-kilometer race at 11:15 a.m. The Ichabod best men's regional team finish came last season when the Ichabods were fifth.
Kibet finished 15th at regionals in 2021 and 20th in 2022.
Donald Kibet backed David Kibet with an eighth-place MIAA finish (24:40.29) and Gabriel Chinya was 14th (24:58.05). Donald Kibet earned all-MIAA honors and Chinya received all conference honorable mention.
The Washburn women finished eighth in the MIAA meet, with Lexie Fontaine leading the Ichabods with a 22nd-place finish.