CARY – The public address announcer at the 2019 Adidas Cross Country Challenge at Wake Med Soccer Park blurted out a profound question over the sound system Friday evening. Is there anyone who can break through this Michigan dominance in the top-5?
He eventually got an affirmative answer in the form of sophomore North Carolina A&T men’s cross country runner Regan Kimtai.
Kimtai was the only non-Michigan Wolverine to finish in the top-5 at the 6k event. He placed fourth with a 6k personal-best 17:54.2. The Aggies finished sixth overall with 152 points behind meet winner Michigan at 17 points. The Wolverines were followed by meet-host N.C. State (58), Davidson (95), UNC Greensboro (116) and Charleston Southern (123) in the top-5.
N.C. A&T junior Devon Williams placed in the top-30 in 26th place with a time of 19:17.6. He was followed by sophomore Morris Kimble at 19:32.8 (37th), freshman Jordan Richardson (40th) at 19:46.4, senior Mar’Quise McGee (47th) at 20:08.9 and senior Joel Freeman at 22:39.2.
The women did not compete, Friday.
The men took advantage of their three weeks away from competition through rigorous training. Even though it was a different course, each Aggie cut down their times from three weeks ago at the 2019 Elon Opener 6k meet by at least 30 seconds. In the case of Kimtai, he knocked approximately 62 seconds off his time.
If given more time, Kimtai believes he could have run past a few more Wolverines.
“I think if given more opportunities to compete against them, I can beat them,” said Kimtai. “Right now, I’m still working myself into shape, but in two weeks… I think I can beat them all.”
According to Kimtai, after the first two kilometers of the race, he started to believe he could keep pace with some of the best runners in the country. After another kilometer, he felt his hamstring starting to pull so he slowed down just enough to keep pace.
“After 4k, I started feeling well again,” said Kimtai. “On the last k, I said it is time to give it all I have.”
At one point in the race, Kimtai had moved into second. But the Wolverines ran together throughout the race and eventually teamed up to pull past Kimtai in the woods before I final push put Kimtai into second.
Kimtai has reason to believe he can compete with the best after a freshman season that saw him finish second at MEAC cross country championships before winning gold in the 800 meters, the 5000m and the mile at the MEAC indoor track and field championships. He closed out the season by winning gold in the 1500m at the conference outdoor championships.
Kimtai is from the hilly region of Eldoret, Kenya where the hills are 7-8,000 feet above sea level. After high school, he trained for a period in Kenya before coming to N.C. A&T.
“I knew A&T was the best school for track and field. I’m good, but if I want to better, I need to be among them,” Kimtai recalled. “I want A&T to be known for being good in everything, not just sprints. We have good sprinters, good middle distance and good distance runners. We want to be excellent at everything.”
Therefore, he wants to go beyond the MEAC.
“I want to run times good enough to go to (NCAA) regionals in cross country and make to nationals too,” Kimtai said. “I want to go to nationals in indoors and outdoors this time.”
The Aggies will get another opportunity to lower their times when they compete at the Greensboro Cross Country Invitational at Greensboro’s Hagan Stone Park, Saturday, Sept. 28.
That meet will have to do until Kimtai can get another shot at those Wolverines.