ETSU men's cross country sweeps away field at Mercer Invitational; Rotich claims second straight title
Saturday, September 27, 2008

MACON, Ga. (Sept. 27, 2008) - Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi, Kenya) has done it again.


The junior ETSU cross country runner claimed his second individual title of the season, and helped the Buccaneers sweep the 2008 Mercer RunFit Sports Invitational on Saturday morning.


Rotich, who entered the race with the top time in the Atlantic Sun, shaved over a minute off his season-best and finished the 8K run in 24:09. The Kenyan sensation previously ran 25:22 in Charlotte two weeks ago, and enjoyed getting a preview of the 2008 conference championship course, which will be held on November 1.  


"Kenneth ran unbelievably well today," said head ETSU track and field coach David Walker. "Each week it seems like he continues to get stronger and stronger. Hopefully he can keep the momentum going and continue to build on these positive results." 


The Buccaneer men blasted the 22-team field (which featured three other conference schools) as 56 points separated them from second-place Clayton State. ETSU finished with 24 points, Clayton State posted 80 and Columbus State capped off the top three with 91 points. The win by the Bucs marked their first team victory of the 2008 season.  


ETSU ran away with the title as every Buccaneer runner placed in the top-15. Along with Rotich's first-place finish, cousin Ben Ronoh (Sotik, Kenya) placed fourth and senior Michael Deren (Blasdell, N.Y.) showcased his best run of the season. Ronoh crossed the line in 25:06, while Deren finished 12 seconds behind in fifth. J Penny (Jonesborough, Tenn.) was the fourth ETSU runner to place in the top-10, as he went ahead and closed out the run in eighth. Rounding out the field for Walker's squad was sophomore Manny Gonzalez (Bryan, Ohio). Gonzalez continued to improve on his season races, by finishing 14th with a mark of 26:01.


"I am really pleased with how we performed today," commented Walker. "We continue to show big improvements and I am happy to see our hard work in practice pay off at a meet. I thought Michael (Deren) ran very tough; while Penny and Gonzalez gave us a lift in the back." 


On the women's side, sophomore Tesha Haggard (Morristown, Tenn.) led the ETSU women's team to a seventh place finish. Haggard turned in her best collegiate run to date, and placed 15th overall with a time of 19:17.


"Tesha got off to a very aggressive start and ran her best collegiate race this morning," said Walker. "As a team we have made some improvements since running in Charlotte two weeks ago. However, we need to continue to push them hard during practice and work on getting the back of the pack closer to the front."


Other ETSU notables included freshman Victoria Jones (Marshall, N.C.) and sophomore Terra Haggard (Morristown, Tenn.). Jones placed 24th and Haggard finished seven spots below in 31st.  


Jacksonville took home the team title with 52 points; while Kennesaw State (95 points) and Columbus State (113 points) capped off the top three.  


The ETSU men's and women's cross country squads return to action next weekend when they compete at the Greater Louisville Classic, on Saturday, Oct. 4.


For more information on Buccaneer cross country, visit