By Gary Sheftick, Army News ServiceJanuary 23, 2020
SAN DIEGO -- Army men swept gold through bronze with the top three times in the USA Track and Field Cross Country Championships Saturday at Mission Bay Park in southern California.
The Armed Forces Cross Country Championship was run concurrently with the USATF 10K races with both Army men and women taking gold in the team competitions.
Cpl. Anthony Rotich of the Army World Class Athlete Program crossed the finish line first in the men's 10K with a time of 30 minutes, 36 seconds after pulling ahead of WCAP teammate Sgt. Emmanuel Bor, who took silver for the second consecutive year with a time of 30:58. Spc. Lawi Lalang, also of WCAP at Fort Carson, Colorado, finished a close third at 31:00.
"We tried to push each other," Rotich said of jostling Bor for the lead halfway through the race.
Five of the Army runners jumped out ahead of the pack at the start with a fast first lap, running as a group with Bor in the lead. By the end of the second lap of the five-lap course, Bor and Rotich had a 15-second lead on Lalang and other teammates.
Rotich, Bor and Lalang all grew up in the town of Eldoret, Kenya, and went on to attend college in the U.S., becoming university track stars.
Rotich attended the University of Texas at El Paso, where he was a three-time NCAA champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He hopes to qualify for the summer Olympics in the steeplechase and said he thought changing his workout length with cross country could help increase his speed.
Rotich hadn't run cross country since five years ago in college, but said discipline was the key to his success in the race.
"I learned that for you to succeed in any sport, the best thing to have is the discipline," he said. "You'll find everybody can do the mileage, but if you don't have the discipline, you wake up in the morning to train… it's going to be hard."
Bor said he began running at an early age when he had to run 8 miles to elementary school, sometimes in bare feet. He attended the University of Alabama where he represented the school in the World University Games. He has been a member of Army WCAP since 2015, competing in 5,000-meter and 10K races.
Saturday was Bor's first competition, though, since he suffered a fractured left hip 10 months ago. One month after taking second place in last year's cross country championship, he fell during a race in Denmark and spent six months rehabilitating at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
This race he developed a blister on his big toe. "I didn't feel it until the last maybe two laps to go. Every step I was feeling it," he said, but in the last 800 meters the hurt really kicked in.
"You got to fight on," he said. "The discipline just kept me in the fight… no matter what happens, you just want to finish. You can't quit."
He hopes to compete in the Olympic 5,000-meter race this summer but first must get a qualifying time next month in Boston before going on to the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials scheduled for June in Eugene, Oregon.
Lalang ran track for the University of Arizona, where he broke NCAA records and was an eight-time NCAA champion. He joined the Army in 2017. He won the Army Ten-Miler in October and hopes to qualify for the Olympics in the 10,000-meter competition.
Spc. Michael Jordan of WCAP finished fourth in the armed forces category and seventh overall with a time of 31:28. Pfc. Macdonard Ondara of Washington's Joint Base Lewis-McChord finished fifth for the armed forces and 11th overall at 32:01. Spc. Frankline Tonui of WCAP finished sixth with a time of 32:22.6 and Sgt. Elias Chesire of WCAP finished 13th at 34:17.
Army runners swept the top six positions in the armed forces category before Marine Corps Capt. Kyle King finished seventh with a time of 33:09.
In the team competition, the Army men took gold, Navy got silver, Air Force came in third and the Marines took fourth place.
Army women also took home a team gold, despite their first runner -- Capt. Jennifer Hannigan of Camp Humphreys, South Korea -- finishing fourth with a time of 40:31. That's because team medals were determined by placement of the top four women from each service.
The Army's Maj. Kelly Calway of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, came in fifth with a time of 40:31. Capt. Kim Chelsea of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, finished seventh at 41:07. Sgt. Esther Spradling of Fort Bragg came in 10th with a time of 41:54.
In the women's team competition, Air Force finished second, the Navy finished third and the Marine Corps finished fourth.
Spc. Susan Tanui, a former Army Ten-miler champion, finished 14th in the Armed Forces 10K with a time of 42:57. Tanui said she is no longer in the WCAP program and doesn't have an opportunity to train as much as she used to, though still stationed at Fort Carson.
Army 1st Lt. Sarah Schreck of Fort Benning, Georgia, was the final runner for the black and gold, finishing 21st with a time of 45:32.