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Southern Oregon and Wayland Baptist's Kithuka Take Top Honors at NAIA Men's Cross Country National Championships

November 20, 2010
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Nov. 20, 2010

Contact: Amanda Dahl, NAIA Manager of Sports Information & Media Services, adahl@naia.org

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Southern Oregon and Wayland Baptist's (Texas) Kennedy Kithuka took top honors by winning the team and individual titles, respectively, at the 55th Annual Men's Cross Country National Championships Saturday at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

All five of Southern Oregon's runners placed among the top 50 to total 105 points for its first-ever National Championship. Wayland Baptist was the runner-up, registering the program's highest finish at the event with 124 points. Three-time defending National Champion Malone (Ohio) placed third with 251 points. Shawnee State (Ohio) and Eastern Oregon rounded out the top-five teams with 254 and 276 points, respectively.

"The competition level is so close and we knew that it would come down to who's day it was today," Southern Oregon head men's cross country coach Brent Erickson said. "We knew that both Malone and Wayland Baptist would be really good, but we really had our guys running well today.

"Waiting to hear who had won [the team title] was like sitting on pins and needles," Erickson said. "We knew that Wayland Baptist did really well. When we heard we had won, it was such a great feeling knowing that all of our hard work paid off."

The Raiders were paced by a trio of All-Americans in senior David Laney, sophomore Zach Elliott and junior Ryan Sorenson en route to winning the program's first-ever National Championship. Laney led the charge with a fourth-place finish, completing the 8K course in 24:57.

"It's amazing to see the group come together and perform the way they did," Erickson said. "This feeling is like second to none. Knowing where this program was three years ago when I first came in and seeing how much hard work everyone has put in, it's amazing. They are a great group student-athletes to work with. It's so hard to describe. It's amazing."

Not only was the reigning team champion dethroned, but so was the individual titlist. Kithuka cruised through the course in 24:02 to take the individual crown, finishing 39 seconds ahead of runner-up Abednego Magut of Azusa Pacific (Calif.). Magut completed the course in 24:41. Shorter (Ga.) freshman Paul Chelimo's 24:44 earned him third-place finish. Southern Oregon's Laney took fourth and DJ Flores of Eastern Oregon placed fifth in 25:00. Defending champion Silas Kisorio of Oklahoma Christian placed 10th.

"I was confident that I was going to win today," Kithuka said. "I ran fast during the first two laps and I relaxed during the last lap."

Kithuka caps off his rookie campaign with the highest honor after earning National Runner of the Week honors on three occasions this season. He is also Wayland Baptist's first-ever national titlist.

The 2010 National Championships were hosted by the Cascade Collegiate Conference and Concordia (Ore.). It was the second-consecutive year that the event had been held at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.