Kennedy Kithuka went to Eugene, Oregon, this week looking to add to his pile of national titles. The count remained on hold Wednesday.
The Texas Tech senior faded to fourth place in the 10,000 meters after leading for much of the race at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships. Oregon freshman sensation Edward Cheserek, running before a home crowd at Hayward Field, pulled away late and won in 28 minutes, 30.18 seconds.
“He (Kithuka) led with about 600 meters to go,” Tech coach Wes Kittley said right after the race. “It was kind of a slow pace. He just wasn’t pushing the pace like he normally does.
“It was a really hot day here. I was shocked how hot it was when they ran. My guess is he just didn’t feel quite as well as he has in the past, but Cheserek’s pretty special. He had a great kick.”
Kithuka’s last college race will come Friday night in the 5,000 meters. He’s won 11 national championships — nine NAIA crowns at Wayland Baptist, plus NCAA cross country and indoor 5,000-meter titles since transferring to Tech.
Kithuka led for much of Wednesday’s 25-lap race. He was still in front with three laps to go and battling for the lead with Cheserek with two laps left, but couldn’t hold off the wave.
Also catching Kithuka late were Oklahoma State’s Shadrack Kipchirchir and Wisconsin’s Mohammed Ahmed, who finished second and third, respectively, in 28:32.31 and 28.43.82.
“He’s more of an even-pace guy, Kennedy is,” Kittley said. “Those guys (who beat him) are kickers. We wanted him to get away from them a little bit more. They have a little bit more speed for 200 or 400 (meters) than he does. I think it played into their hands a little bit, the pace being slower.”
Four Tech athletes competed on the first day of the four-day meet at Hayward Field. Hannah Carson became a first-team all-American for the first time, finishing eighth in the women’s javelin. The sophomore from Chandler, Arizona, threw 172 feet, 1 inch.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had a javelin all-American,” Kittley said. “I’m really proud of her.”
Two Tech athletes who were first-team all-Americans last year had disappointing first days. Cierra White was 17th among 24 runners in three semifinal heats of the women’s 100, and Kole Weldon finished 18th in the men’s shot put. Neither advanced to the finals, White running a time of 11.38 and Weldon’s best mark in preliminaries being 61-31/2.
Both juniors still have events left this week.
“Kole was just off,” Kittley said. “I felt bad for him. He couldn’t get his rhythm down, and you only get three chances.”
Meanwhile, former South Plains College stars Vernon Norwood, Shavez Hart and Janeil Bellille advanced to finals in their events.
Norwood made it through the semifinals in the men’s 400 meters, Hart in the men’s 100 and Bellille in the women’s 400 hurdles.
Norwood, from LSU, ran a time of 45.52, good for second in his heat and fourth overall. His former SPC teammate Bralon Taplin, now at Texas A&M, ran a 45.81, third in his heat and eighth best. However, only the top two from each heat and the next two best times advance, and Taplin was neither.
Another South Plains ex, Shavez Hart now of Texas A&M, advanced to the finals in the 100, running a 10.18 for second place in the last of three semifinal heats.
Bellille, of Texas A&M, won her 400-meter hurdles heat in 56.44.
at Hayward Field
All Times CDT
Texas Tech athletes’ schedule
Note: All events are finals unless otherwise indicated. An “x” indicates an athlete must qualify through the previous round. Numbers in parentheses represent where an athlete’s best time/mark of the season ranks in the NCAA.
Heptathlon: Shanice Stewart (6), 100 hurdles, 3 p.m.; high jump, 4 p.m.; shot put, 6:30 p.m.; 200 meters, 8:05 p.m.
200 meters (semifinal): Cierra White (15), 6:15 p.m.
100 hurdles (semifinal): Le’Tristan Pledger (8), 7:20 p.m.
1,600-meter relay (semifinal): Texas Tech (12) (Montenae Roye-Speight, Amoy Blake, Christen Rivers, Cierra White, alternate Tiffany Tarver), 8:40 p.m.
High jump: JaCorian Duffield (3), Bradley Adkins (9), 5:20 p.m.
Discus: Kole Weldon (10), 6 p.m.
5,000 meters: Kennedy Kithuka (1), 8:10 p.m.
Heptathlon: Shanice Stewart (6), long jump, 2:30 p.m.; javelin, 3:45 p.m.; 800 meters, 6:50 p.m.
200 meters: x-Cierra White (15), 4:49 p.m.
100 hurdles: x-Le’Tristan Pledger (8), 5:19 p.m.
1,600 relay: x-Texas Tech (12) (Montenae Roye-Speight, Amoy Blake, Christen Rivers, Cierra White, alternate Tiffany Tarver), 5:55 p.m.
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