Toth blazes trail en route to title
Senior Thomas Toth made Cameron Cross Country history on Nov. 8 in Wichita Falls, Texas, by becoming the first Aggie runner to win a Lone Star Conference individual championship title.
Toth clocked in a 24:52.5 finish to win the 8K conference meet with a 32 second advantage over second place runner Brett Villarreal from West Texas A&M.
Prior to the race, Toth said he predicted another West Texas runner, freshman Geoffrey Kipchumba, to be his biggest competition, but a pre-race conversation with Kipchumba made him confident he would capture the win.
“I spoke to him before the race, and he said he was a little nervous,” Toth said. “Once that happened, I knew I had him. I just kind of said some discouraging words to him and that was it. Like I said, Geoffrey Kipchumba was the biggest competition, but once I spoke to him, I kind of got into his head and realized he wasn’t as strong mentally as he is physically and that is more important.”
Kipchumba ended up placing fourth individually; however, his team, West Texas A&M, would take their second league title in a row by 53 points over Eastern New Mexico. As a team, the Aggies finished fifth place overall, just 20 points back of second place.
Individually, sophomore Methuselah Lagat was CU’s second highest runner who placed 14th with a time of 26:23.40. Senior Steve Orwel came in 20th overall, running 26:52.4, and freshman Pascal Paintner rounded out the top-25 with a 25th place, 27:33.30 finish.
Toth and Lagat both earned all-conference honors for placing in the top-fifteen.
The meet, hosted on a retired golf course, held some difficult terrain for the Aggies. Toth described the course as sneaky because it appears flat but the hills are gradual and continue to increase as the race progresses.
“After five miles it kind of wears and tears on the body as opposed to dramatic hills at rapid increase,” Toth said. “Going out hard is a little tougher because in later stages you’re worn down more than you would be on a track for a lighter course. With the winds today at 20 mph, especially going up the hill, I just made sure the terrain played in my favor.”
With the strong north wind pushing with the runners at the start of the race and his knowledge of the field’s running style, Toth made sure to start strong so that he could relax towards the finish.
“I knew going out quick would bring them back to later stages,” Toth said. “Once I got the lead, I just pushed a little bit until mile two and a half to mile four, then from there it was just a maintenance game, trying to make sure I continued to hold the lead without getting injured or letting off.
“I’m a stronger runner. I’m not a guy that is going to put down a very fast 200-300 meter finish, but I’m a guy who can hold the pace,” he said, “so you just have to wear them down – let them come with me for five miles. That’s a long way to push going 4:57 pace, so letting them die on their own is kind of working in my favor.”
Toth’s strategy proved feasible and allowed him to coast to the finish line with a 32 second lead on the field and a new conference accolade.
Next for Toth and the Aggies is a bid in the NCAA South Central Regional on Nov. 22 in Denver, Colo. to face teams from the Lone Star, Rocky Mountain Athletic and Heartland Conferences. The regional will determine who moves onto the national championship on Dec. 6 in Louisville, Ky.
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