'We got our trophy back': Arkansas men win 52nd conference championship in cross country

Patrick Kiprop of Arkansas runs at the SEC Cross Country Championships on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Columbia, S.C. (Photo by Shawn Price/Arkansas Athletics)

The Arkansas men’s cross country team won its 28th SEC championship Friday. 

Patrick Kiprop in second place led a 2-5-6-12-13 finish that totaled 38 points for the Razorbacks. Alabama was runner-up with 57 points. 

The Crimson Tide narrowly won the team championship last year to break a two-year winning streak by Arkansas. 

"We didn't talk much, except the last thing I told them was, 'Get our trophy back,'" Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam told SEC Network after the race. "We got our trophy back." 

Kiprop and Hillary Cheruiyot of Alabama paced most of the 8,000-meter run at the Charwood Golf Club in Columbia, S.C., but Kiprop was passed by Alabama’s Victor Kiprop (no relation) in the final 1,000 meters. The Crimson Tide runner won his second consecutive individual title at the conference meet in 22:23.4.

Patrick Kiprop finished in 22:31.6. The Razorbacks’ other scorers were Ben Shearer in fifth, Kirami Yego in sixth, Elias Schreml in 12th and Reuben Reina in 13th. 

Myles Richter in 16th and Jacob McLeod in 18th did not count toward Arkansas’ team score. 

"It got a little warm out there, I think, but for the most part our guys did good," Bucknam said. "We've got a deep team and it's just good to see some other kids come in and contribute to the score. 

"Reuben Reina, for one, just ran great. Yego and and Patrick Kiprop and Ben Shearer did good, too. It was a good team effort and I'm proud of them." 

It was the 31st SEC championship in the three sports coached by Bucknam, who has been at Arkansas since 2008. Bucknam’s teams have won 11 cross country titles. 

The Razorbacks have won 52 conference championships in cross country when 24 Southwest Conference titles between 1950-90 are included. 

UA women 2nd

Arkansas’ women finished runner-up for the second consecutive season. 

Led by individual champion Parker Valby, Florida (1-4-8-17-19) won its first team title since 2012 with 49 points. 

The Razorbacks (5-6-12-16-20) scored 59 points. 

Valby, a junior, defended her individual title with a 6,000-meter time of 18:37.5. She briefly fell behind Alabama freshman Doris Lemngole, but regained the lead between the 4,000- and 5,000-meter markers and pulled away. 

Lemngole was second in 19:11.2. 

Paityn Noe (19:43.7) and Sydney Thorvaldson (19:49.8) led Arkansas with fifth- and sixth-place finishes. The Razorbacks also earned points from Laura Taborda in 12th, Mia Cochran in 16th and Mary Ellen Eudaly in 20th. 

Arkansas competed at a championship meet for the first time since 33-year coach Lance Harter retired in June. The Razorbacks’ distance runners are coached by Megan Elliott, a former runner for Harter. 

Both Arkansas teams will compete again at the NCAA South Central Regional on their home course in Fayetteville on Nov. 10. The NCAA Championships are scheduled for Nov. 18 in Charlottesville, Va.