Andrew Kibet won the NJCAA Division I Team Championship on Saturday in Garden City
Andrew Kibet won the NJCAA Division I Team Championship on Saturday in Garden City

By Rod Zook Contributing Writer

GARDEN CITY – For the first time in the history of Hutchinson Community College men's cross country, a Blue Dragon runner is a national champion.

Freshman Andrew Kibet capped off a great season by pulling away in the final 1,000 meters to score an 8-second victory in a time of 25 minutes, 25.3 second in cool, but very windy conditions at Garden City's Buffalo Dunes Golf Club.

Kibet completes a season where he became Hutchinson's third Region VI champion in team history. He won five races this season and on Friday night was named the USTFCCCA Central District Male runner of the year.

Before Kibet, the previous individual high for a Blue Dragon runner at nationals was Mark Menefee's fourth-place finish in 1998. His time of 25:25.3 ran the seventh-fastest race by a Blue Dragon in NJCAA Championship history.

Just like the Region VI Championships two weeks ago, Kibet was expected to be challenged by Cloud County's Dennis Kiptoo and Colby's Nehemiah Too along with Iowa Central's Ezekiel Kipchirchir.

But Kibet stated after the race that he wanted to thin out the field and by the 4-mile mark it was just Too and Kibet to settle things among themselves. Eventually Kibet was able to pull away for the win with Too second and Kipchirchir in third. Kiptoo settle for fourth.

The Blue Dragons No. 2 runner, Sylvester Kibarar, started strong but encountered some difficulty and had to settle for 21st in a time of 26:49. and Brett Hillabrand was 40th in 27:28. The rest of the Dragons included Jared Stark in 75th, 28:19; Jason Luft 79th in 28:46; Conner Kauffman 101st, 28:46 and Gavin Alexander 155th in a time of 29:45.

As a team the Dragons finished seventh with 203 points.

Cloud County was the top Jayhawk Conference finisher in sixth place, three points ahead of the Dragons. while Colby was eighth and Allen in 10th.

Central Arizona was the national champion with 100 points followed by Iowa Central and El Paso.