T-Birds win 21 events in Thunderbird Classic
On Wednesday, for the first time in over 20 years, Cloud County Community College played host to a full collegiate track meet, held between the Cloud County campus and the newly renovated Harold M. Clark Stadium at Concordia High School.
The Thunderbirds shined in their final tune-up before next weekend's Region VI/KJCCC Championships, competing against partial teams from Fort Hays State University, University of Saint Mary's, Dodge City and Pratt, as the men and women combined for 21 event wins on their own stomping grounds.
"This was a great opportunity for our kids to get a chance to run here at home, run in front of their classmates, faculty and staff at the college," said Cloud County head men's coach, Harry Kitchener. "That means a lot to these kids. We saw a number of really quality performances and times put up (Wednesday) in perfect weather."
Cloud County freshman Dais Malebana was one of the many T-Birds to have a huge day on Wednesday as he claimed the top spot in the nation with a time of 3-minutes, 48.51 seconds.
Malebana also added a first-place finish in the 800-meter run, while fellow freshman Santino Kenyi finished as the runner up in both events with times of 3:48.51 and 1:55.22, respectively.
"Dais has really come around lately. His time (Wednesday) would have won the KU Relays last week," Kitchener said. "He had an outstanding day."
Sophomore sprinter Lesley Mahlakoane had a full afternoon, joining Malebana as the second male athlete to earn two event wins as he took first in the 200-meter dash (21.56) and 400-meter dash (47.38).
Joining Mahlakoane on the podium in each event were sophomore Tanner Brown, who finished as the runner-up in the 200-meter (22.08) and 400-meter (48.19), and freshman Stephen Holland. Holland placed fourth in the 200-meter (22.42) and third in the 400-meter (49.74)
Fellow sophomore sprinter Myflore Methelus also had two individual wins Wednesday for the Cloud County women's team as she swept the 100-meter (12.43) and 200-meter (25.39) dashes.
Methelus also helped the Cloud County 4x100-meter relay team of Shackera Samuels, Chanice Forbes and Jacqueline Pokuaah to a winning time of 46.74, and the 4x400-meter relay team (Samuels, Forbes and Kenisha Stubbs) to a win in 4:04.80.
Stubbs and Samuels most impressive performances came in the women's 400-meter hurdles, as Stubbs won the event with a time of 1:03.90, tying her for third among NJCAA athletes, while Samuels placed second (1:04.62). Right behind them was freshman Tanya Harcum (1:10.16) in third.
"There were quite a few performances that stood out, we had a lot of personal bests, but that 400-meter hurdles race was a great, great thing," said Cloud County head coach, Ted Schmitz. "Kenisha cut about 2-3 seconds off her previous qualifying time. Shackera and Tanya each ran really well, so that was one race that really stood out."
Not to be outdone, the Cloud County men's team also dominated those three events.
The trio of Yuben Goncalves, Marco Joseph and Sten Sepp earned the top-3 spots in the men's 400-meter hurdles, with Goncalves winning in a time of 53.66, while Joseph and Sepp were close behind at 53.95 and 54.45.
All three would contribute in relay races as well, as Goncalves and Stepp ran the first two legs of the 4x100-meter relay and, along with teammates Holland and Brown, won in a time of 42.17.
The 4x400-meter relay team of Holland, Sepp, Joseph and Goncalves capped the evening with another win, crossing the finish line in 3:22.98.
Cloud County also swept the top-3 spots in the men's 5,000-meter run as freshman Dennis Kiptoo won the event (14:30.40) by a tenth of a second over fellow freshman Kwanele Mthembu (14:30.50). Saba Khvichava came in third with a time of 15:05.50.
Rounding out the winners on the track for the T-Birds were sophomore Thom Reynders (9:40.91) and Sadie Jones (14:43.76) in their respective 3,000-meter steeplechase races. Freshmen Gabriel Chinya (10:07.97) and Ablel Gebreselase (10:10.78) finished second and third, respectively.
Out in the field, Concordia native Jessica Williams cruised to a win in the women's pole vault with a leap of 11'5.75. She is still ranked No. 2 among NJCAA athletes in the event.
Freshman jumper Jacqueline Pokuaah began the day Wednesday with a win in the women's long jump (19'7), while freshman Semaj McGhee placed third (17'8) and added a second-place finish in the triple jump (36'9.5).
The Cloud County men earned event wins in all three jumping events, with Kyle Alcine taking the top spot in the high jump (6'9), freshman Johan Cobena in the long jump (6'6), and Kody Orester in the triple jump (40'6).
Sophomore thrower Jerrod Hoover rounded out the victories on Wednesday for Cloud County as he earned first place in the men's javelin with a season-best throw of 185'10.
In the women's javelin, sophomore Shanee Angol finished second (121'5).
With the 13 event wins and slew of personal records, Kitchener said he is hopeful the Cloud County men's team will be on the rise after coming into the meet ranked No. 5 in the latest USTFCCCA poll.
"With what we did today, hopefully we should be moving up in the rankings and challenging South Plains and Coffeyville for those top spots," Kitchener said.
Up next for the T-Birds will be the first of their two postseason competitions; the Region VI/KJCCC Championships set for May 3-4 in El Dorado.
"Most everybody is performing near, if not at, their highest levels right now," Schmitz said. "We want to build on that and that's the main thing. We'll still have two weeks to get ready for the national meet, but we're excited about next week at the Region VI/KJCCC Championships."