Mwangong finishes in top five of championship

Mark Pawlak

Mike Mwangong continued his quest to be an All-American with an impressive performance at the Big 12 Cross Country Championship last Saturday.

The junior from Eldoret, Kenya, earned all-conference honors; yet in team competition the Cyclones did not fare as well, with the men’s and women’s teams finishing 11th.

Mwangong placed fifth out of 105 runners by completing the 8K course in 24:26. His finish led the ISU men.

“Mike ran a great race. He’s running better [than] ever. He beat a lot of people that he hasn’t beaten all year,” head coach Kevin Bourke said. “It’s really good to see him finish where he did.”

Bourke said the Cyclones had a goal for Mwangong going into the championship meet.

“Our goal was a top nine finish, but I told him before the race that he could be in the top five,” Bourke said. “That’s exactly where he finished.”

Ben Fogarty was the second Cyclone runner to navigate the course, finishing 59th in a time of 25:56. Peter Hess followed by placing 60th in 25:59.

Both Fogarty and Hess turned in their best performance of the year.

“I was really pleased to see that they both ran under 26 minutes. It’s the first time that both of them have done that this year,” Bourke said.

A shorthanded women’s squad also finished 11th in the championship.

Head coach Dick Lee lost two of his four top runners to injury and his top runner, Kelly Brinkman, was not at full strength for the championship.

“We were really shorthanded going down, and that took some of the edge off of the other kids. We’re not only missing two of our normal top four kids, all of the sudden our number one runner is not at full strength. It made it difficult on everybody down there,” Lee said.

Brinkman was hampered by an illness and placed 45th out of 96 competitors that completed the 6K course in a time of 22:32. She was not able to repeat last year’s high finishing position.

“She’s somebody that last year was fifth in the conference, so you know she was not anywhere near full strength this year,” Lee said.

Monica Erickson turned in a 51st-place finish for the Cyclones, completing the course in 22:42.

Iowa State will now prepare for the NCAA Regional Qualifying meet to be held Nov. 10 in Carbondale, Ill.

The women’s team will be looking to get healthy and run more competitively.

“We’re not going to get either of the two kids who are hurt back. We don’t know on Kelly,” Lee said.

“If her health doesn’t improve in the next week and a half, we’re probably looking at not racing her at regionals, because it would probably slow down her recovery to get another race in and stress the body that hard. We’re just looking at the rest of the kids coming out, being more aggressive and running a more competitive race at regionals.”

The men’s squad will be aiming to have the region’s champion in Mwangong.

“The four people that beat him are not in our region. He would certainly be one of the favorites at this point to win the region,” Bourke said. “The main goal at the regional is not to really win the race, as much as it is to get qualified for the NCAAs.”

For Mwangong to gain All-American honors, he has to qualify for and finish in the top 35 at the Nov. 19 NCAA Championship.

Being able to repeat the performance he gave on Saturday will allow him to accomplish that, Bourke believes.

“He can do that if he continues to run like he ran on Saturday,” he said.