Bowling Green, Ky. — For the seventh time in Western Kentucky University history, the Hilltopper and Lady Topper cross country teams swept the Sun Belt Conference team titles Saturday, successfully defending its home course at Kereiakes Park.
The Lady Toppers scored 32 points to win their third-straight league cross country title, followed by the runner-up effort of Middle Tennessee (74), while Arkansas-Little Rock was third (112), follwed by North Texas (113), South Alabama (138), Florida Atlantic (140), Arkansas State (166), Troy (193), Louisiana-Lafayette (214), Florida International (231), and Louisiana-Monroe (269).
After being projected by league coaches to finish second in the team scoring behind MTSU, the Hilltoppers won the meet with a team score of 50 points, with UALR taking runner-up honors with 94 points. MTSU finished in a tie for third with UNT at 110 points, while USA was fifth (153), followed by Troy (159), FAU (173), FIU (177), ULM (183), ULL (222), and ASU (231).
Janet Jesang successfully defended her SBC individual title, as she won the women's 5,000-meter race in a time of 17:27.09 to earn Performer of the Meet honors. Joining Jesang on the all-Sun Belt team was Eimear O'Brien, who earned her second-straight league cross country honor with a fourth-place finish of 18:32.97, while Sarah Namara finished sixth in 18:46.18 and Ashley Moore was eighth in 18:53.04 to also earn all-Sun Belt accolades. To round out the scoring for the Lady Toppers, Jane Bartonjo was the number five finisher for WKU, taking 13th among individuals with a time of 19:25.32, while Ana Carinena had a strong showing with an 18th-place finish of 19:43.97.
The Hilltoppers were led by Patrick Cheptoek, who navigated the men's 5-mile course in a time of 25:00.04, earning runner-up honors behind champion Micah Tirop of South Alabama. Earning his second-straight all-SBC cross country honor, Cosmas Bor finished fifth with a time of 25:36.99, and on his heels in sixth was Patrick Jenkins with a clocking of 25:40.57. Finishing in 12th for the Tops was Bethuel Kiplagat with a time of 26:10.17, while Kyle Chettleburgh was 25th in 27:04.43.
In honor of WKU's success on the day, Sun Belt coaches voted Lady Topper distance coach Michelle Scott as the 2008 Coach of the Year, while head coach Erik Jenkins was chosen as the men's Coach of the Year.
Since joining the Sun Belt Conference in 1982, the Hilltoppers have won a total of 14 team cross country titles. In addition, since the SBC began sponsorship of women's cross country in 1985, the Lady Toppers have won 13 team cross country titles.
This year's women's title marks the third-straight for the program after winning the league championships in 2006 and 2007. For the men, it was the first cross country title since 2005.
The WKU women have won every Sun Belt Conference championship in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field since the SBC indoor championship in 2006, tallying nine straight leage team titles. Also, the men's cross country title was the third-straight won by the Hilltoppers, as they won the 2008 SBC indoor and outdoor team championships.