Sports Writer: Luke Tucker
SAINT LEO, Fla. — The Wingate Bulldogs men’s Cross Country team took home the gold medal in the NCAA Division II Pre-National contest on Oct. 2 at Saint Leo University in Florida, beating the other 12 teams in attendance.
Wingate won handily on the scoresheet, totaling just 28 points, while Fresno Pacific placed second with a distant 81. South Atlantic Conference foe, Catawba College, finished fifth with 130 points. Mount Olive, whom Wingate has competed against in every meet this season, took seventh place.
“It was good to finally race a full team,” Wingate head coach Pol Domenech said. “We accomplished all the goals we had in mind before the start of the race. Our spread of one-to-five was exactly what we needed…now we just have to replicate this performance in November.”
Four Bulldogs placed in top six in the 8K race, led by redshirt freshman Bastian Mrochen, who finished with a time of 24 minutes, 46 seconds. Pierre Galbourdin, Felix Nadeborn and Oliver Way were the other three harriers to finish in the first half-dozen.
Patrick Kiprop, a native of Eldoret, Kenya, dominated the individual competition, posting a time of 24:15 to win for Fresno Pacific–more than 30 seconds ahead of second-place Mrochen. It was Kiprop’s third victory of the season.
Despite Kiprop’s dominance, Wingate’s average race time among scored athletes was 38 seconds better than the next-best team. The Bulldogs’ total time was more than three minutes faster than any other school’s.
Domenech made it clear prior to the start of the campaign that his goal was to qualify as a team for the NCAA Division II National Championships for the first time in school history. The championship events will be held on the same course in Florida on Nov. 20.
The victory in the pre-national meet propelled the Bulldogs to No. 8 in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll released on Oct. 6.