PEMBROKE — After racing in the 5,000-meter run at the Peach Belt Conference track and field championships on Saturday, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s Silus Kipkoech quickly went to check in with the man who had just used a last-minute surge to erase his hopes of winning a league title.
Just a couple of minutes removed from using a strong kick over the last 200 meters of the race to pull ahead of Kipkoech and finish in first place, Embry-Riddle’s Lelei Too talked with his fellow Kenyan as if they had been friends for years.
“He’s my homeboy. I’ve known him for two or three days,” Too said of his friendship with Kipkoech. “When I came in (to the meet) I realized we were from the same place.”
Too’s victory contributed to a big outing for Embry-Riddle, which entered the third and final day of the meet in first place on the men’s side and in second place on the women’s side.
The Eagles posted impressive performances on Saturday to sweep the men’s and women’s conference titles. The men’s team took the top three spots in the 1500-meter race to effectively secure the result with one event remaining, while the women tallied 219 points to distance themselves from second-place Nova Southeastern, which finished with 162 points.
The UNCP men registered 205 points to finish in second place behind Embry-Riddle’s 234.5 points. UNCP’s women’s team finished in third place with 149 points.
“I saw a lot of fighting on both sides,” UNCP Director of Track and Field Peter Ormsby said. “We came up a little short on the guys’ side in a couple of events, but that’s a conference championship. You’ve got to be firing on all cylinders.”
For the second year in a row, Ormsby was named PBC Coach of the Year, Kipkoech was named the men’s track athlete of the year and Jeanna Cube was named the women’s field athlete of the year.
The pair of Kenyans stayed close together for much of the race before Too made his move.
“I could have kicked with 400 meters to go, but I decided to relax and wait for the last 200,” Too said.
Too clocked a time of 15:10.88 while Kipkoech crossed the finish line in 15:12.84.
Kipkoech, who owns the league’s fastest 5,000-meter time this season at 14:54.01, said the length of the race made it more challenging for him.
“The last 400 (meters) was kind of fun because I was exhausted. It’s a long distance,” Kipkoech said.
Pacing also played a role in the outcome of the race, according to UNCP runner Matthew Martin, who finished in fifth place with a time of 15:22.76.
“The pace went out kind of slow,” Martin said. “I kind of wanted to take control a little bit early on. I wish it would have went a little better, but I’m pretty satisfied with it.”
The Braves earned several individual championships on Saturday.
Kory Jones took home top honors in the high jump with a a mark of 2.01 meters. Javon Graham won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.31 seconds. Michael Powell earned the 400-meter hurdles championship with a winning time of 54.08 seconds.
“We were doing stuff a little to late, but I overextended a couple kids and that kind of came back to bite us,” Ormsby said. “The girls overachieved all weekend, and we just missed out on second place.
Overall I’m proud of the kids and proud of the staff. It’snice to compete in front of the home crowd. It would have been nice to be on top of the podium, but we’ll be back.”
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester