Nov. 2, 2013
Tyler Byrne, behind a school-record 8K, won the American Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships individual title. With the victory, he has five consecutive top-20 finishes and earned his second career all-conference accolade (Photo courtesy of Ben Solomon/American Athletic Conference).
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Tyler Byrne made sure that Louisville, competing in the school's first postseason competition in the American Athletic Conference, got started on the right foot - literally.
The redshirt junior, in addition to winning the individual conference title, clocked a school record 22:57.09 in the 8K to help lead the men's cross country team to the league's first postseason title on Saturday at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn.
"We saw very strong performances from both the men's and women's squads," Dale Cowper said following his first championship as a head coach. "Tyler took control of the men's race from the gun and the rest of the group followed.
"Our ladies have made great progress throughout the year and built upon that today."
The women's team, meanwhile, finished second in its respective race, marking the program's highest finish since the 1996 Conference USA title.
Louisville, which secured its second men's cross country team title in school history and first since 2007, accomplished another historic first, as all five scoring runners earned all-conference honors.
Byrne, who earned all-conference accolades for the second time in his career, cruised to the win with his closest competition, teammate and runner-up Ernest Kibet, 30 seconds behind him. A Georgetown, Ind., native, Byrne continued his stellar season and ensured his fifth consecutive top-20 finish this season with the victory.
"He's in a pretty good place physically and he's maturing mentally," assistant coach Joe Walker said of Byrne's development. "The race went out fast and he kept the pressure on through the middle of the race. It was a solid solo effort for a pretty wide victory margin. He's continuing to learn from the past and he's putting the work in and making sure he's getting recovery time."
As has been the case all season long, Kibet displayed a solid performance and helped Louisville deliver the 1-2 punch in the individual standings. The sophomore's time of 23:27.36 ranks as the fourth-fastest 8K mark in school history.
Louisville's other three scoring runners - Stacey Eden, Mattias Wolter, and Japhet Kipkoech - bolstered the team's impressive 28-point total, as each finished in the top 10. Eden, in his first season with Louisville, recorded the 20th-fastest time after crossing the finishing line in 23:52.07.
"Last night, we said we need five guys in the top 10," Walker said. "It was good to see that happen and know that we were able to read that correctly. We still have to get better though and build off this as we move forward."
Benadate Cheruiyot led the charge on the women's side, earning all-conference honors behind a fifth-place performance in her first conference championship. The freshman, who finished with the third-fastest time in school history with a mark of 20:41.72, posted the highest finish by an individual since Bettina Bard won the Conference USA title in 1996.
"We're all really proud of her," Walker said of Cheruiyot. "We've been hopeful that she could make that move to become a leader by example. It's a good sign from her that she is capable of taking that role.
"It was a fast day with unbelievable weather conditions. There was zero wind and a firm, flat course. It was a great day for distance running."
Similarly to the men's team, the women placed a school-record tying four on the all-conference team and each one registered a top-25 time in school history in the 6K distance.
"The staff has worked very hard to put this class together," Walker said, referring to the women's team's nine freshmen. "We have a foundation to build on and we feel we can go after more quality and grow from there."
Junior Michelle Molodynia finished ninth, while freshmen Adair Gennocro (12th) and Agnes Chepchumba (13th) posted top-15 finishes. Emily Bushey, another freshman, rounded out the Cardinals' scoring runners with a 22nd-place showing.
The Cardinals return to competition on Nov. 15 for the NCAA Southeast Regional in Charlottesville, Va. The University of Virginia will serve as the host institution for the Nov. 15 meet. The top two finishing teams in each race automatically qualify for nationals.
For the latest information on Louisville cross country and track and field, log on to GoCards.com, or, for up-to-the-minute updates, follow the team's Twitter account at www.twitter.com/uofltrackxc or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/uofltrackxc.
MEN'S TEAM RESULTS
1. LOUISVILLE, 28; 2. Cincinnati, 75; 3. Memphis, 77; 4. Connecticut, 94; 5. Houston, 95
MEN'S INDIVIDUAL RESULTS
1. Tyler Byrne, 22:57.09; 2. Ernest Kibet, 23:27.36; 7. Stacey Eden, 23:52.07; 8. Mattias Wolter, 23:55.58; 10. Japhet Kipkoech, 24:02.03; (20.) Andrew Stewart, 24:33.07; (38.) Jonathan Reynolds, 25:28.25
WOMEN'S TEAM RESULTS
1. SMU, 29; 2. LOUISVILLE, 61; 3. Connecticut, 79; 4. UCF, 142; 5. Rutgers, 150
WOMEN'S INDIVIDUAL RESULTS
5. Benadate Cheruiyot, 20:41.72; 9. Michelle Molodynia, 21:03.62; 12. Adair Gennocro, 21:06.63; 13. Agnes Chepchumba, 21:07.84; 22. Emily Bushey, 21:45.57; (26.) Kelsey Cramsey, 22:08.26; (30.) Megan Klein, 22:18.53