By Amanda Carney
As Andrew Kibet crossed the finish line on Saturday at Garden City’s Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, he made history.
Kibet became the first Hutchinson Community College men’s cross-country runner to become a national champion.
Toward the end of the race, Kibet didn’t even know he was going to hold the title of national champion.
“To be honest, I didn’t know I was going to win that race because I gave it my best,” Kibet said. “Let me go to the finish line, whoever will come pass me it is OK, but I will just try to go ahead of pace.”
Kibet came from Kenya, originally playing volleyball and running middle-distance races, to becoming a cross country national champion.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Kibet said. “From being a 1500-meter runner to a cross country champion that was a big achievement.”
Throughout the entire hilly course, Kibet managed to have the right mindset, despite his one loss being a hilly course.
“In cross country it’s about mentality,” Kibet said “So, you need to plan before you cross the finish line. Some people have a finishing kick. In order to avoid that you need to set a pace, so they won’t have the energy at the end of the race.”
The Garden City course was like no other course the Blue Dragon men and women’s cross-country teams had seen before.
“There’s this giant hill that’s almost torture to make them run up,” Hutchinson coach Justin Riggs said.
“It’s like climbing Everest, and the guys had to do this twice.”
Kibet was challenged throughout the race by Cloud County’s Dennis Kiptoo and Colby’s Nehemiah.
He was also challenged by Iowa Central runner Ezekiel Kipchirchir. By mile four, ir was Kiptoo and Kibet.
Kibet then pulled away for the win with a time of 25 minutes, 25.3 seconds. Riggs had only good things to say about the last meet for the season.
“For him to come out on top in that field and those conditions says a lot about him and strength as a runner,” Riggs said.
This is only the start for Kibet. Not only is he a freshman, but he still has track season to come.
The women’s cross-country team also had a memorable season, finishing 12th on Saturday 2018 NJCAA Division I National Cross Country Championships at Buffalo Dunes Gold Club in Garden City.
This is the Blue Dragons best finish since 2004, when they placed ninth. Now it is official time to switch gears and get ready for indoor track season.
“I’m just really proud of (Kibet) and all of our guys,” Riggs said.
“Now it’s time to switch over and start working on track things, which pretty much means focusing more on speed.”