UTEP cross-country returns for abbreviated 2020 schedule

UTEP+senior+Caroline+Chepkosegei++runs+alongside+former+teammate+Linda+Cheruiyot+at+Lori+Fitzgerald+Classic+at+Chamizal+Park+in+El+Paso+Sept.+13%2C+2019.+

UTEP senior Caroline Chepkosegei runs alongside former teammate Linda Cheruiyot at Lori Fitzgerald Classic at Chamizal Park in El Paso Sept. 13, 2019.

Michael Cuviello, Sports Editor

Kicking off the 2020 UTEP cross-country season the Miners placed seventh in the men’s team event and 10th in the women’s team event Saturday at the  82nd annual Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater Oklahoma.

Due to COVID-19 concerns the  Miner cross-country season will only encompass three meets that will conclude with the Conference USA (C-USA) Championships in Birmingham,  Alabama  Oct. 31.

The men’s team is coming off a season where it finished fourth overall in conference and return the top four runners from the team. Sophomore Titus Cheruiyot is coming off a spectacular season where he won two races and finished third in the C-USA Championships and ninth in the NCAA Mountain regionals. He was the lone male runner to qualify for the NCAA Championships where he placed a somewhat disappointing 152nd which was over a minute slower than his time in the regionals.

Cheruiyot is the top returning runner for the Miners and in conference with both the first and second place runners at the C-USA championships having graduated from Middle Tennessee State University. For the 2019 season Cheruiyot was named to the All C-USA First team.

Joining Cheruiyot on last year’s all-conference team was returning junior Rodgers Korir after finishing top three in a trio of races last season and sixth overall in the conference championships.  Korir missed finishing fourth in the C-USA championships by half a second and eight seconds behind teammate Cheruiyot.  The duo of Korir and Cheruiyot are both contenders to take home a conference championship giving the Miners the most potent duo of runners in C-USA.

While there is quite a drop off in talent from the top two runners on the Miners there is talent with sophomore Kenneth Talavera and  senior Boaz Ronoh who both had top 10 finishes last season.  The UTEP men’s team should be a top contender in conference this season and has the ability to compete for a championship if there is improvement from Korir and Cheruiyot’s supporting cast.

For the Women’s team it will be all about  senior Carolyne Chepkosegei who will spearhead the team as its top returning runner. The Miners lost its top two runners from last season in Winny Koech and Linda  Cheruiyot both top four finishers in the conference championships in which the women placed a disappointing third overall even though it had three of the top seven finishers in the race. The key contributor to UTEP not being able to cap off its season with a championship was its fifth-place runner finishing over two minutes off the pace of the top finishers.

Junior Karoline Daland is expected to take a big step up this season as the only other returning runner to have a top 10 finish last season. Daland capped off her season with a 14th place finish at the C-USA championships and started the season off running within  a second of Chepkosegei in the Cowboy Jamboree Saturday finishing 24th.

Sophomores Joan Kimaiyo and Valerie Gonzalez will be taking on much bigger roles this season. Kimaiyo competed in every event last season with two top 20 finishes and finishing 61st overall at the C-USA championships. Gonzalez only competed in two events last season.

Rounding out the women’s team will be senior Andrea Lucero and  sophomore Jaqueline Orozco. For the team to be competitive in the C-USA championships there will have to be greater improvement from the fifth finishers for the Miners as that position just did not give great balance to the top runners of the team. With Middle Tennessee State returning all of its top runners, the UTEP women’s team is far from the conference favorite it was last season. Chepkosegei has the ability to be a top three finisher in the C-USA championships and Daland with improvement should be one of the 10 best runners in conference. Overall, the women’s team is very inexperienced and will struggle to finish in the top half of conference.

Michael Cuviello may be reached at [email protected]