LINCOLN, Neb — Lydia Mato has quickly established herself as a premier runner in the NJCAA.
The freshman from Ghana won her second meet of the season for the Barton Community College women’s cross-country team this past weekend at the Woody Greeno Invitational hosted by the University of Nebraska.
Mato won the college division, posting a time of 21:54.9 over the 6,000-meter course, besting second place by more than 20 seconds. Her time was the second best of the day as only Anna Peer of the host Nebraska Cornhuskers turned in a better time with a 21:45.3 as she won the university portion of the meet.
Fellow countryman Sampson Laari led the Barton men as the freshman from Ghana took fourth in the college division with a time of 26:15.0 over the 8,000-meter course.
That helped the Barton men to a 10th-place finish at the event. The Barton women did not field a full team for the event.
Mato won the women’s college division by 22 seconds over Iowa Central’s Viola Kebenei with Anne Herbert of Northwest Missouri nearly a full minute behind in third place.
Mato now has two wins and a third-place effort. That came to a pair of Kansas State University runners during a 4K event earlier in the year.
“Lydia was second to the University of Nebraska’s Anna Peer, but for the first time this season, she really pushed herself,” Barton head coach Parker Cowles said. “Over the last half mile I could tell she was struggling to continue, but she ran hard through the finish.”
The Lady Cougars are ranked No. 24 in the NJCAA poll but did not take a full team to Nebraska. Barton took four runners to the event, but five are needed for a team score.
Following Mato was Texas freshman Holly Pierce, who ran a 27:01.5 for 78th place. Great Bend freshman Kaitlynn Tuey was 99th with a time of 28:04.3. Rounding out the Cougars in the field of 138 runners was Dodge City freshman Yazmin Rendon who ran a 30:15.1 for 120th overall.
On the men’s side of things, Laari led Barton to the 10th place effort in the college division — the third best finish among the NJCAA schools at the event.
Iowa Central finished second overall behind Wisconsin-Stout and was the top NJCAA finisher. Iowa Central is ranked No. 2 in the latest NJCAA poll.
Iowa Western, ranked No. 4, came in seventh overall and was the second NJCAA team. Barton, 10th overall, was the third NJCAA team to finish. Barton is currently ranked No. 17.
“I was very proud of the way Sampson Laari raced,” Cowles said. “Parts of the men’s course were very muddy and Sampson met some adversity early in the race but he rose above and competed through to the end. He has really come along in his distance training since last January, and I could not be happier with his results this far.”
Texas freshman Tony Perez finished 76th and was the next Barton runner to come in after Laari. Perez finished in a time of 29:34.6.
It was a ways down to the next Barton runner as the Cougars grouped up finishing in spots 119, 120 and 129 to round out the team scoring. The event had 181 runners in the college division.
Tyler Thornton, a freshman from Baltimore, was 119th with a time of 31:31.7 and Wyoming freshman Devyn Brotherton was next with a 31:33.4. Abilene freshman Marcus Pastran rounded out the team scoring with a 31:53.8.
Also running for the Cougars during the meet was Brady Holler, the lone sophomore on either the men’s or women’s team, finishing in 142nd place in a time of 32:18.1 and Darrius Salmond in 159th in a time of 33:41.
Elder Colindres, a freshman from Dodge City, ran as an at-large entry, finishing with a time of 34:41.1.
The Cougars will be off until Oct. 4 when they travel to Fayetteville, Ark. to compete in the Chili Pepper Festival hosted by the University of Arkansas.