UTEP men’s and women’s teams finish second in C-USA Championships

Juan Carlos Navarrete, Staff Reporter

The 2015 Conference USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships came to a close today, May 17, at Kidd Field. After four days of competition, the UTEP men’s and women’s teams both ended in second place behind UTSA and Western Kentucky, respectively.

Coming in to the Sunday’s events, the women’s team trailed Western Kentucky by 22 points. The Lady Miners were able to cut the lead down, but not enough to earn the gold. When it was all said and done, the Hilltoppers won the conference title thanks to their total score of 157. UTEP finished with 148.

The men were able to overtake Western Kentucky, who led after Saturday’s events, but the Miners were not able to beat UTSA’s 165 total score.

“Very proud of our guys. I don’t think we could have done any better,” said Miner head coach Mika Laaksonen. “I think the girls scored more points than we thought they would score. I don’t think we could have had anything gone wrong yesterday and today or anytime during the meet.”

Individually, plenty of Miners enjoyed success on the final day of competition.

Senior Greta Kerekes was the second runner to cross the finish line in the 100-meter hurdles. She had the fastest time in qualifying and was able to beat that time in the final race.

“I can’t be not happy,” Kerekes said.  “I was worried about (just) qualifying for nationals and I almost won.”

Senior Ana Kay James came in third behind Kerekes.

Florence Uwakwe, in the 400-meter dash and the women’s 4×400 relay team, and Lilian Koech, in both the 5,000-meter race and 1,500-meter race, all won gold on Sunday as well.

On the men’s side, senior Anthony Rotich performed like he has always done as a Miner. Rotich competed in two events on Sunday and won them both, for the third consecutive year.

Already having won the steeplechase earlier in the week, the native of Kenya won both the 1500-meter and the 5000-meter races during the final day of competition.

During the 1,500-meter race, all competitors stayed relatively close, until the final stretch, when Rotich left them all behind.

“When we came to the first 300, it felt really fast on this track,” Rotich said. “I have been running it (here)…I remember when I ran it here when they run it they do not finish it and it was that.”

Competing and defending his home turf was as important for Rotich as defending his title.

“The most special thing for me is winning at home,” Rotich said. “I will race good here because this is my track because I need to show everyone that yes you cannot beat me here in my track.”

Rotich’s 30 total points gave him the meet’s highest totals, also for the third time.

Sophomore Cosmas Boit added another gold medal and his first conference championship, after winning the 800-meter race.

The men’s 4 x 400 relay was the last event of the night. UTEP’s quartet, made up of A-Shawni Mitchell, Carnell Horn, James Bias and Abiola Onakoya, took to the track with the team in third place, trailing Western Kentucky by a point in the overall standings.

The relay was back and forth. The Miners seemed like they might have to settle for the bronze when Onokoya got the baton. He outran the Western Kentucky runner and crossed the finish line before anyone else.

A total of nine Miners climbed the podium on Sunday and several will be in Austin, Texas., competing in the regional tournament on May 28-30.

Juan Carlos Navarrete may be reached at [email protected]