T-Birds place a pair of runners in the top-10 at Saturday's Chili Pepper Festival

Cloud County freshmen Anton Reeves (left) and Ablel Gebreselase (right).
Cloud County freshmen Anton Reeves (left) and Ablel Gebreselase (right).

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — The Cloud County Community College men's cross country team tested its medal on Saturday in a loaded field at the Chili Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Arkansas as a total of 441 runners from 49 different teams lined up for the men's eight kilometer race at Agri Park.

The T-Birds finished in the top-half of the team standings, earning 12th overall, behind the latest strong performances from freshmen Dennis Kiptoo and Kenyi Santino as the duo each collected top-10 finishes.

"I'm happy for our guys to compete very well against top NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II and NAIA schools," said Cloud County head coach, Drew Mahin. "I'm really happy for Dennis and Kenyi that they had great top-10 performances."

Kiptoo, the reigning NJCAA DI Athlete of the Week voted on by the USTCCCA, finished seventh overall — the highest finish of any NJCAA athlete — with a time of 24:37.30. Close behind with Santino with a time of 24:39.30 to earn ninth place.

Freshman Kwanele Mthembu added the third scoring time for the T-Birds, finishing 85th overall with a time of 26:13.40.

Sophomore Thom Reynders (110th overall, 26:32.2) and freshman Anton Reeves (244th, 28:11.3) rounded out Cloud County's top-5 scoring times.

Cloud County also received strong performances from freshman Ablel Gebreselase (251st overall, 28:18.3), sophomore Burke Deters (281st, 28:42.10) and freshman Ricky Cuvillier (356th, 30:03.00). All three marks were season best times for Gebreselase, Deters and Cuvillier.

The T-Birds were threatening to finish in the top-10 as a team until freshman Saba Khvichava, who had collected the third highest finishes for Cloud County runners in each of the first three meets to begin the season, suffered cramping midway through Saturday's race.

Khvichava was able to get it out to the finish line, taking 417th overall with a time of 33:01.20.

Cloud County will now get 14 days to rest up before it competes again on Saturday, October 6 at the Emporia State University Invitational.

"We will be ready for a break after a month of straight races," Mahin said. "We know we can compete for a top 2-3 (team finish) in our region."