FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Heading to the Chile Pepper Festival over the weekend, the Barton Community College cross-country runners knew it would be the most competitive meet of the season by far.
And it was.
Barton head coach Parker Cowles took just three runners for each the men’s and women’s teams due to that fact. Barton’s Ghana freshman duo placed well at the meet to the lead the Cougars. Lydia Mato was 26th overall in the women’s race while fellow countryman Sampson Laari was 23rd in the men’s race.
“The Chile Pepper was a very high level meet,” Cowles said. “Both Lydia and Sampson made some tactical errors, and for the first time this year they found themselves in the chase pack. It was a new experience for them and I think as a result their performances suffered.
“I think they both learned a lot and will be able to draw on their experience in Arkansas at the National Championships next month.”
Mato finished her 5K race in a time of 17:15.9 to place 26th overall at the meet. She was the second NJCAA runner to finish just three spots behind Iowa Central’s Viola Kebenei.
Kebenei ran a 17:11.1 Dominique Scott of host Arkansas won the race with a time of 16:01.0.
The race included 375 overall runners.
Barton had two more runners compete for the women as Great Bend freshman Kaitlynn Tuey ran a 21:01 for 325th place and Holly Pierce ran a 21:42 for 342nd.
For the men’s team, Laari ran a 24:44.7 over the 8K course to earn that 23rd-place effort. The only NJCAA runners ahead of him were a pair of runners from Iowa Central.
Frankline Tonui was the top NJCAA runner, finishing an impressive ninth overall in a time of 24:16.2. Elisha Kipruto was 18th for Iowa Central in a time of 24:36.6.
Arkansas senior Stanley Kebenei won the race for the host Razorbacks with a time of 23:53.5. He was one of just three runners to best the 24-minute mark.
The men’s race included 429 runners.
Tyler Thornton was the second Barton runner to finish, doing so in a time of 29:14.4 for 368th. Teammate Antonio Perez was close behind in 383rd in a time of 29:36.6.
“I was really happy with the performances of both Kaitlynn Tuey and Tyler Thornton,” Cowles said. “Kaitlynn ran a 5 kilometer personal record and Tyler ran over two minutes faster than he did at the Woody Greeno two weeks ago.”
The Cougars have just one meet left before the Region VI meet on Oct. 27 in Colby. Barton will travel to El Dorado Friday to battle in the Ollie Isom Invitational. That meet will start at 4 pm.
“The meets will get a lot easier,” Cowles said. “From here on out we are facing exclusively junior college competition.”