SPARTANBURG, S.C. – No amount of stormy weather delays could slow down USC Upstate's Joan Tangwar and Gilbert Kemboi of the women's and men's cross country teams from winning tonight's annual running of the Eye Opener Invitational.
With the sun setting the Spartans raced the darkness as Tangwar took home top honors in the women's 5K, posting a school record and course record with a time of 17:06.
"I was excited for the race and I was ready for it," Tangwar said. "I was confident I could win. It was a nice day, despite the rain we had earlier. The weather made me a little nervous about the race, but I knew I was going to go for it no matter what it cost. I was glad about the time I had and I hope I will improve on my time."
In order to get both the women's and men's races in tonight, the weather resulted in both the men and women running at the same time in order to avoid darkness. Kemboi, no stranger to finishing ahead of the pack, put up a time of 24:52 in the men's 8K.
"The Eye Opener used to be run in the morning, but today it was a little bit different and the weather made it a little unpredictable," Kemboi said. "Team-wise, as time goes by, I hope we get a little bit better and keep improving. It wasn't my best time, but I'm hoping that as the season goes on I'll be able to push through to the next level that I haven't been able to reach yet."
Tangwar's teammate Jemeli Sang claimed second-place, registering a personal-best time of 17:34, while Carolyne Chelulei finished 17th with a time of 19:12. The senior trio helped the Spartan women's team to a fifth-place finish.
"I was happy I was able to break my personal record and I was so excited that we got to run with the guys because that was the first time we were ever able to do that," Sang said. "I tried to keep up with my teammate Joan, since we've been training together. My goal was to finish the race well and that's what I did. I also hope we're going to keep up the good work and be ready for the regionals."
On the men's side, sophomore Andrew Kipchumba took 14th with a time of 26:40, while junior Christian Ritacco claimed 16th, crossing the line in 26:40 to help Upstate to a fourth-place finish.
The Furman women took top honors, while Clemson finished second. Davidson and UNC Charlotte claimed third and fourth, respectively. For the men, Clemson and Davidson tied for first in the team standings, while Furman came in third.
The Eye Opener Invitational concludes tomorrow with the high school portion beginning at 8 a.m. This is one of the largest high school cross country meets in the state of South Carolina.