TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Senior All-American Stanley Kebenei turned in an outstanding performance at the 2014 Southeastern Conference Championships, as the Kenya native took charge and ran away from the field in the closing lap to help the No. 23 Arkansas men’s cross country team capture its fifth straight SEC cross country title on Friday afternoon at Harry Pritchett Running Course.
Kebenei, who placed second at last year’s SEC Championship, was neck-and-neck with Auburn senior and 2013 All-American Ty McCormack through the first two laps off the race. But Kebenei was able to fend off his foe in the final lap, as he broke through with an insurmountable lead over the final stretch to finish the 8K race in 23:49.27, 11 seconds faster than second-place McCormack, to win his first career SEC individual title.
The first-place performance paced a Razorbacks squad that had four runners place inside the top 10 to earn them an overall score of 54, putting them just ahead of Ole Miss’ 60 points to capture the program’s 22nd SEC title in 24 years.
Redshirt junior Gabe Gonzalez collected a fourth-place finish with his time of 24:26.47 to earn his All-SEC first team honors, while junior Cale Wallace placed eighth (24:40.51) and freshman Alex George came in 10th (24:46.10) to earn All-SEC second team honors.
Arkansas was able to capture its fifth straight title thanks in large part to redshirt sophomore Aidan Swain. The Fayetteville, Ark., native was able to pick up his pace over the last 2,000 kilometers after one of his teammates could not finish the race, and passed nearly 15 runners along the way to place 31st, giving his hometown team enough points to overcome a Rebels squad that placed five runners inside the top 25. Swain set a new personal-best 8K time along the way, as he turned in a 25:24.38 performance.
Redshirt junior Patrick Rono was the sixth Arkansas runner to cross the finish line, as his time of 25:30.76 gave him a 38th-place finish. Freshman Ethan Moehn concluded his first SEC Championship race in 26:20.20 to place 67th and junior Andrew Pisechko, who was also competing in his first SEC Cross Country Championship, rounded out the group of runners for the Hogs, earning an 81st-place finish with a time of 26:29.59.
The Razorbacks will continue to focus on the championship portion of the schedule their next time out, as they will return home to compete in the NCAA South Central Regional. The race from Agri Park is set for Nov. 14 and will begin at 1 p.m.
For more information on Arkansas men’s cross country, follow @RazorbackTF on Twitter.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES
- Friday’s race marked the fifth time Alabama has hosted the SEC Championship and the first time since the 2000 season. That year the Razorbacks ran away with the title, scoring 27 points, as David Kimani won the first of his three straight SEC individual titles.
- Arkansas won fifth straight SEC cross country championship and the programs 22nd overall.
- The Razorbacks have now won 22 of the last 24 SEC Cross Country Championships, with only a back-to-back title run from Alabama in 2008 and 2009 preventing the Razorbacks from a perfect 23-year run.
- Under Coach Bucknam, Arkansas has won six SEC Cross Country Championships in his seven seasons.
- With Stanley Kebenei’s win, Arkansas secured its first back-to-back individual SEC Champion since the 2004 and 2005 races, when Josphat Boit won the back-to-back titles.
- The Razorbacks have won the individual title in three of the last four years.
- Senior Stanley Kebenei is one of two 2013 USTFCCCA Cross Country All-Americans that participatde in this year’s SEC Cross Country Championships. He was joined by Auburn transfer Ty McCormack, who earned All-American status at Clemson last season.
- Kebenei picked up his first career SEC cross country individual title, and in doing so, it was the third SEC men’s individual cross country title in the last four years for Arkansas. Eric Fernandez won in 2011, while fellow Razorback Kemoy Campbell captured the crown last season.
COACH BUCKNAM POST-RACE SOUND
Buckman on his team’s close victory
“First of all I want to congratulate Mississippi for a great run at the title. That program has come a long way within the year and they will be a team we will have to deal with over the next few years. As far as our team, we had the race comfortably with 2,000 kilometers to go, but one of our runners had an issue that did not allow them to finish the race, and Aidan Swain really came to the rescue for us. We were fortunate that he was able to be right there when one of his teammates went down and he captured the opportunity. He knew he was going to be our fifth guy and he brought the hammer down and ran a gutty race to help his team win the championship.”
Bucknam on his team overcoming adversity
“That is something that Arkansas does in this race. It’s a part of our history to come here and do well and our kids know that. We understand the importance of this meet, and our kids wanted it today and found a way to win. With a lot of chaos going on towards the end of the race, we had our No. 6 runner, a kid from Fayetteville who knows our history as well as anyone, step up and deliver us a championship today and to keep our tradition going.”
Bucknam on Stanley Kebenei’s Performance
“I’m proud of Stanley. He is an unbelievable competitor, and even better teammate. He hung back for a good half of the race to stay with our guys and when McCormack began to open the race a bit he was able to stay with him step-by-step and overtook him late in the race to just run away with it. Stanley is a tough racer, he finished sixth at the NCAA Nationals last season and I believe he is in a group of 10-to-12 guys who can do really well at this year’s championships.”
On winning the 2014 SEC Men’s Cross Country individual championship
“The race was very good. I started, kind of, late, but I knew what I was doing. The course was perfect, I liked it. The people around here were everywhere. I thank everyone for doing this.”
On the battle with Auburn runner Ty McCormack, the runner-up
“McCormack, I consider him a good athlete. I knew he was good, and we were going to take it together. But I knew at 2K, we’d know who’d win the race. At 2K, I just checked with McCormack, and he was kind of tired and I knew I would take it because I was strong. So I knew it was good.”
On continuing Arkansas’ tradition of winning SEC titles
“To be part of the tradition is something big. To be part of Arkansas, in the SEC, this is where everything starts. When you see the world champions, the Olympians, they’re from the SEC. This is a good thing for us to build our dreams, to be a pro athlete, especially for me because I’m a senior and I’m looking forward to doing that.”
Men’s All-SEC First Team
Stanley Kebenei, Arkansas
Ty McCormack, Auburn
Wes Gallagher, Ole Miss
Gabe Gonzalez, Arkansas
Tyler Schneider, Missouri
Sean Tobin, Ole Miss
Robert Domanic, Ole Miss
Men’s All-SEC Second Team
Cale Wallace, Arkansas
Kane Grinster, Auburn
Alex George, Arkansas
Austin Whitelaw, Tennessee
Matt Airola, Alabama
Damian Roszko, Mississippi State
Dan Roe, Missouri
Men’s SEC All-Freshman Team
Sean Tobin, Ole Miss
Alex George, Arkansas
Taylor Caldwell, Ole Miss
Mark Robertson, Ole Miss
Coleman Churitch, Auburn
Bryan Kamau, Georgia
Thomas Howell, Florida
1. Arkansas 54
2. Mississippi 60
3. Auburn 77
4. Missouri 87
5. Kentucky 120
6. Alabama 195
7. Tennessee 205
8. Texas A&M 207
9. Miss State 249
10. Florida 251
11. Georgia 255
12. Vanderbilt 357
13. LSU 361
|1st||Stanley Kebenei | Sr.||1||23:49.27|
|4th||Gabe Gonzalez | R-Jr.||4||24:26.47|
|8th||Cale Wallace | Jr.||8||24:40.51|
|10th||Alex George | Fr.||10||24:46.10|
|31st||Aidan Swain | R-So.||31||25:24.38 (PR)|
|38th||Patrick Rono | R-Jr.||38||25:30.76|
|76th||Ethan Moehn | Fr.||67||26:20.20|
|81st||Andrew Pisechko | R-Jr.||N/A||26:29.59 (PR)|