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Tritons win men’s national title

—Photo by Paul DeCoursey The Iowa Central men’s cross country team stands with their championship trophy at Lakeside on Saturday.

Kelvin Bungei came to Iowa Central to make history.

The native of Kenya did just that on Saturday, capturing the individual NJCAA Div. I National Cross Country Championship title while leading the Tritons to team glory in the process.

Iowa Central had three runners place in the Top-15 and all five counting scorers in the Top-24 to finish with 65 points in earning its fourth championship in program history here at Lakeside Golf Course inside Kennedy Park. Southern Idaho and Iowa Western were a distant second and third overall.

Along with Bungei’s gold-medal performance, Pur Biel was 13th overall, Hunter Klimek finished 14th, Noah Friske was 17th and Demetrius Kaquatosh 24th. Mohamed Mohamud finished 34th and Jordan Hustak was 36th.

“What a performance by our guys on a windy and cold day,” Iowa Central head coach Nick Ekel said. “It was very impressive to watch the team be assertive from the start of the race and hold on to secure the fourth men’s national team championship in program history. Each and every one of our guys went out and did their job to the best of their ability, which is all that we can ask as a coaching staff.”

Bungei took the lead with just over two miles remaining, crossing home in 24:57.38. Runner-up Yonas Mogos of Iowa Western was over 13 seconds behind.

“I feel motivated to win at our home course,” Bungei said. “And leading the Tritons to the team title.”

Bungei is the second male athlete to win a national title for the Tritons and first since 2012.

“I couldn’t be happier for our men’s program. This is the pinnacle. When you have the opportunity to win an individual championship and a team title in front of your home crowd, there is nothing more exciting,” said Iowa Central Director of Cross Country, Dee Brown. “It gets people talking. Students, staff, administrators, volunteers are all now interested in cross country. They got to see first-hand what these kids work for all year.

“It was a great team effort. They banded together and picked each other up to achieve this unifying goal they have had since August 1.”

The Iowa Central women were unable to defend their team title as they were placed in quarantine and forced to miss the race. Ranger clipped Cloud County by a single point for its first title with Faith Chepengat of Iowa Western claiming individual gold. Chepengat became the third woman to win back-to-back titles.

In Div. III, Joliet’s Tiffany Lehmann won the women’s title to lead her team to the overall championship. It marked the first time they have won the championship. Donovan Denslow led Mineral Area to the men’s title with an individual victory over teammate Wyatt Elliott.

Cowley’s Lubna Suied bested North Iowa Area’s Sarah Bertry for the women’s Div. III title as Cowley edged Heartland by three for the team crown. NIACC’s Melvin Kipkemboi gave the ICCAC another championship, winning the men’s race to help the Trojans complete the sweep.

In all, the conference won three individual races, had a pair of runner-ups and earned two team titles.

This marked the first championships hosted by the NJCAA since last March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We would like to thank Lakeside Golf Course, Fort Dodge Parks and Recreation, Iowa Central Community College, the Fort Dodge Convention and Visitor Bureau, our sponsors and our volunteers who all collaborated to produce this event for the NJCAA student-athletes and coaches,” Ekel said. “This event would be impossible to pull off without their time and help.”

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