Texas Tech junior Kennedy Kithuka continued his perfect season Saturday as he finished first at the NCAA Cross-Country Championships in Louisville, Ky.
The national championship is Kithuka’s first of his career at the Division 1 level. Kithuka has previously won 10 races in track and field and cross-country in NAIA at Wayland Baptist before transferring to Tech.
The Kenya native entered the race unbeaten during the fall season. He broke the course record at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park finishing with a time of 28:31.3 in the 10,000-meter race, according to Tech Athletics.
The win allowed Kithuka to become Tech’s first male NCAA cross-country champion.
“Once the race got started, I knew I was ready to go,” Kithuka said in a news release. “It was just a great race.”
He is Tech’s sixth overall national champion after becoming the first men’s Big 12 Champion in school history earlier this month.
“Kennedy ran a perfect race,” Tech cross-country coach Jon Murray said in a news release. “There was a race plan, and he executed it to perfection. He put the surges in at the right time and opened the race just past the halfway point. The rest of the race was just a continued effort and keeping the tempo up.”
The meet was the most competition Kithuka had faced all year. Kithuka competed against defending national champion Lawi Lalang from Arizona, who had beaten Kithuka at a meet last season. Lalang entered the race undefeated during his cross-country career.
Kithuka took the lead midway through the race, moving in front of Lalang and a fellow Arizona runner, Stephen Sambu.
Sambu finished second behind Kithuka with a time of 28:38.6, and was followed by Lalang, according to Tech Athletics.
With 3,000-meters remaining in the race, Kithuka broke away from the group to finish the race, separating from Samba and Lalang.
“I am extremely proud of Kennedy,” Murray said in a news release. “He came into the meet as the underdog and left as the champion. He just did a fantastic job of representing Texas Tech.”