Fayetteville, Ark. -- Texas A&M defeated Arkansas, 52-75, to claim the team title at the 20th annual Chili Pepper Festival held Saturday morning at Agri Park.
While the No. 20 Aggies came into the meet as the highest ranked Division I program, they still faced the daunting task of defeating the No. 27 Razorbacks on its home course. Arkansas has won this event three of the past four years while A&M finished fifth here a year ago with 202 points.
Shadrack Songok, the defending individual winner, paced Texas A&M on the 10,000-meter course with a third-place finish in a time of 29 minutes, 16.6 seconds. The Aggies put together a stellar team effort behind him with four more runners finishing among the top 25 overall places.
“It was awesome to win the team title and be part of a historic achievement for Texas A&M,” Songok said. “It’s really great to see the performance we turned in today. Everybody ran very well and I think we look really strong as a team. Now we are looking forward to the upcoming postseason meets.”
In the scoring places A&M claimed positions 2-8-13-14-15 to reach its total of 52 points to better a field of 30 teams. Arkansas produced a scoring line of 4-11-12-23-25, led by Scott MacPherson placing seventh overall.
Kevin McNab was the next Aggie after Songok, placing 12th with a time of 29:56.4. Then a pack of three A&M runners finished within 10 seconds of one another. Mitch Bible recorded a time of 30:13.1 for 20th, while Kevin Ondrasek (30:19.7) and Joe Sauvageau (30:22.1) crossed the finish line in 22nd and 23rd place.
“It’s very encouraging to defeat Arkansas on this course, especially compared to the past couple of years,” McNab said. “Arkansas has beat us pretty good in the past, but we’ve improved so much the past couple of years. This year we are finally putting it together and good things are happening for us.
“Our fourth and fifth runners are who really pulled us along. In the past our number four and five runners haven’t been that strong. Having five people finish among the top 25 runners in this race allowed us to do some really good things.”
Harding’s Daniel Kirwa won the men’s race in 28:53.5 with Lamar’s Samuel Kosgei taking second in 29:05.6. Behind Songok were Abilene Christian’s Julius Nyango (29:23.3) and Steven Sambu (29:25.2) of Rend Lake. Teams finishing behind Texas A&M and Arkansas included Lamar (120), Virginia Tech (122) and Rend Lake (150) in the top five.
“Coming into the race I was prepared to run hard,” Songok said. “I knew this time around there was going to be tougher competition. There were some new guys who weren’t here last year. It felt great to be out there among some of the best runners in our region, particularly guys who I haven’t raced before. It let me see where I am at the moment and see what I need to work on for the rest of the season.”
Christina Munoz led the Aggie women with an 11th place finish on the 6,000-meter course, improving on her 20th place finish from a year ago. She recorded a time of 20:52.8. The A&M women placed seventh among a field of 39 teams with a score of 285 points.
Texas Tech women, led by defending NCAA champion Sally Kipyego (19:27.0), won the women’s team title with 72 points over Arkansas (101), SMU (139), Virginia Tech (183) and Boston College (185).
Finishing in the scoring positions behind Munoz for the A&M squad were Elizabeth Slaughter clocking 21:38.4 in 32nd place, Amber Weems (22:34.3) in 77th, Emalie Fischer (22:40.7) in 84th, and Kasey McNorton (22:41.9) in 87th. Other members of the team included Leigh Berger (22:44.8 – 93rd), Alie Cornell (23:02.0 – 117th), Merideth Snow (23:59.4 – 182nd), and Evelyn Wing (24:27.1 – 196th).
Other runners on the men’s squad included: Logan Sherman (31:27.4) in 65th, Kevin Burnett (31:35.4) in 70th, Graham Northcutt (32:22.1 – 101st), Josh Litos (33:04.7 – 136th), Chad Brown (33:39.9 – 156th).
Men teams: 1. Texas A&M, 52; 2. Arkansas, 75; 3. Lamar, 120; 4. Virginia Tech, 122; 5. Rend Lake, 150; 6. Texas Tech, 228; 7. LSU, 248; 8. Texas A&M-Corpus Chrisi, 254; 9. Oral Roberts, 272; 10. Loyola Marymount, 321.
Women teams: 1. Texas Tech, 72; 2. Arkansas, 101; 3. SMU, 139; 4. Virginia Tech, 183; 5. Boston College, 185; 6. Texas, 220; 7. Texas A&M, 285; 8. Missouri State, 300; 9. San Francisco, 308; 10. Baylor, 312.