By Eric Saunders, staff writer
As the morning was winding down on Saturday, something dawned upon the men’s cross country team: It had taken conference.
The 2012 Heartland Conference Cross Country Championships were held at the Cessna Activity Center Saturday. The men took first place while the women placed second.
Newman was originally ruled the second-place finisher, losing to Dallas Baptist. The results from the race claimed junior Peter Neidhart finished behind a runner from the University of Arkansas Fort Smith, causing DBU to squeak by the Jets.
After a photo and video review, Neidhart was declared the rightful finisher and Newman was declared the winner, beating DBU by one point.
“It was surreal,” Neidhart said. “It’s like somebody told you no and then turned around and told you yes. It was a surprise and a shock, but a happy one.”
Neidhart led the Jets with a seventh place finish and a time of 26:44 in the 8K race. Senior Manase Busienei finished in ninth place with a time of 26:49. Junior Martin Calderon finished in 12th (27:12), freshman Joey Kenneson finished 13th (27:12) and sophomore Joktan Tanui finished 15th (28:25). Junior Cliff Kissling and ophomore Nick Lockwood rounded the sixth and seventh spots for the Jets with times of 27:28 and 28:25, respectively.
Neidhart said the day was all about redemption and teamwork.
“The team put in so much hard work this past year, and in one race it all paid off,” Neidhart said. “The bad taste from last year drove many of us to push harder. Also, it was truly a full team effort with the tiebreaker situation. No single person won that race for us; everyone played a vital role. Also with the race being at home, all of our friends and family came to watch and cheer us on.”
The women’s performance was not lackadaisical either.
Sophomore Rubi Torres led the women’s team throughout the 6K race, sometimes running as far up as second place, finishing in seventh with a time of 23:16. Junior Taylor Carlson finished shortly afterwards in 10th place, with a time of 23:53.
Both Torres and Carlson were named to the All-Conference First Team. Rounding out the team’s top finishers were junior Julie Randall (24:37), senior Katie Hamlin-Kissling (24:51), junior Britani May (25:07), junior Zenah Chepkwony (25:40) and junior Tiana Hacker (26:44).
Coach Josh Schepis said the team’s performance was to be commended.
“I was very pleased with the times of the women and their second-place finish,” Schepis said.
On Friday evening, both teams had the opportunity to hear former Olympic runner and record holder Jim Ryun speak. Ryun, a Wichita native, spoke in the Performance Hall at 4 p.m. Friday.
“The advice that I took from Jim Ryun was that racing isn’t about being the fastest kid out there. It’s about running your own race, and that is exactly what I did,” Hamlin-Kissling said. “I think both teams did that and our results were success.
She said she was pleased with her finish, which will be her last conference race, being a senior.
“My teammates were counting on me,” Hamlin-Kissling said. “Pain is easily dismissed when you know others are depending on you.”
The Newman cross country team will be back in action at the NCAA South Central Regionals on November 3, in Denver.