LEVELLAND — Coming off a pair of top ten national finishes a year ago, the South Plains College men's and women's cross country teams are slated to open the 2019 season at the Western Texas College Open in Snyder on Saturday at 9 a.m.
The Lady Texans return three All-Americans from last year's squad, including sophomore sensation Gladys Jemaiyo who placed second at the national meet a year ago and was crowned national champion at the Half Marathon National Championships. South Plains also returns Dorcus Ewoi who took 16th at nationals during her freshman stint, as well as Angela Rodriguez who placed 38th overall at the national meet.
"Our women's team is a group who placed fifth last year at the national meet and we bring all but one back from that team," South Plains head coach Erik Vance said. "With Gladys and Dorcus coming back as well as Nyia and Angela who were both big contributors for us last year, this is going to be a fun women's team to watch. We've been training for a good three weeks now, and they're going to be a solid group and will be in contention throughout the year."
The Texans welcome five freshmen to Levelland and will look to sophomores Alex Kitum and Yusef Mohamud to lead a young group eager to compete for the orange and blue. Kitum earned a ninth-place finish at the Region V championships last season, clocking a 27:42.8 in the men's 8k as the Texans took third overall at regionals.
"We have a thinner group on the men's side due to putting an emphasis on the track and making sure we have a group who can score points on the track," Vance said. "We lost five pieces from last year's team that moved on to the next level, and when you lose that many it can be tough to replace them all. That said, we expect Alex to get out there and lead us this year, and I think he's going to have a great cross country season. He had some injury issues a year ago, but I think he's ready to run well for us this year."
Following Saturday's meet, South Plains will return to the course on Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Texas Tech Open, followed by a trip to Hobbs for the New Mexico Junior College Open on Sept. 27 in Hobbs.