Kiprob shines at Chile Pepper Festival

The Iowa Central cross country team took part in two events in two different states over two days, highlighted by some strong showings.

On Friday at the annual Chile Pepper Festival hosted by the University of Arkansas, freshman Aspel Kiprob placed sixth in a time of 23:56.5. The five runners finishing ahead of Kiprob were all from four-year schools including the host Razorbacks and Texas State. 

Kelvin Bungei was 11th overall, crossing the line in 24:12.7. 

Kiprob's time was the second-fastest in school history, ahead of hall of fame runner Stanley Kebenei, who is also his brother. This was just his second 8km cross country race.

"We had a great two days of competition across the Midwest," Iowa Central head coach Dee Brown said. "Our men's team kicked the weekend off Friday evening in the fast heat at the Chile Pepper Festival. It was great to go head to head with not just the top junior college programs in the nation but some of the best programs across all Divisions. This is one of the largest and most competitive races we will be involved in all year. 

"If we can be successful at this level, I am confident we will see great results at our own national championships in November."

As a team, the Tritons placed 12th with 376 points. Colorado Mines finished first followed by Augustana, Western Colorado, Arkansas and Alabama Huntsville. 

Zander Cobb was 105th in 25:49, Hunter Klimek finished 159th in 26:28 and Robin Aguilar Gonzalez was 166th in 26:34. 

Iowa Central sent runners on Saturday to the Steve Johnson/Dan Huston Invitational in Waverly hosted by Wartburg. The Tritons placed third behind Wartburg and Washington.

Chloe Garcia Grafing led the way, finishing ninth in 22:19.83 for Iowa Central. Zinash Valen was 30th in 23:44, Taylor McCreedy placed 43rd in 24:12 and Kate Miron was 69th in 25:45.

Garcia Grafing's run is the 14th-fastest 6km time in school history. 

"Our women ran their first 6km race of the season," Brown said. "It is not something they are accustomed to, nor would I say it is something they would choose to do. Their entire season revolves around the 5km distance. We had an opportunity to experience something new, which will only help us race more competitively during our championship season in November.

"I was definitely impressed with their performances. If you compared their times to how they performed just two weeks ago in Nebraska we are definitely seeing big improvements. Each week, each of these ladies gets just a little bit better and it is a great trend."

The Tritons placed seventh in the team race as Cassius Havis was 68th in 27:25. 

Jake Lewis finished 96th in 28:17, Rocharn Wilson was 107th in 28:53 and Connor Kilgore placed 109th in 28:54. 

Iowa Central will head to West Salem, Wisconsin on October 15 for the Jim Drews/Tori Neubauer Invitational.

-By Dana Becker