FULLERTON, Calif. – All-Americans Abednego Magut and Jacky Kipwambok opened the 2009 season in rather impressive fashion by winning the Cal State Fullerton Season Opener men’s and women’s individual races, respectively, Saturday evening at the Fullerton Municipal Golf Course.
Led by Kipawambok’s sizzling 21:24 over the 6K course and her victory by more than one minute over her nearest competitor, the NAIA champion Cougar women won the team title, beating 26 other schools, while the Cougar men finished sixth out of 19 teams.
Running only the second 6K of her career, Kipwambok took the early lead and continually pulled away from the 262-runner field to post a strong effort, one that makes the 2-time NAIA runner-up a clear favorite for this year’s NAIA crown. Kipwambok beat second-place Vivien Wadeck by 89 seconds, and Glendale’s Brianna Jauregui by one minute and 38 seconds. She joins former Cougar great Brianna Carstensen (2003) as the only Azusa Pacific women ever to win the Cal State Fullerton Season Opener.
Projected by Cougar head coach Preston Grey to have a breakthrough season, junior Victoria Martinez made her coach look good with the finest showing of her collegiate career, finishing fourth overall with a 23:05. Sophomore Lauren Jimison was 16th at 23:41, while freshman Poppy Lawman made her collegiate debut a one to take note of by finishing 19th at 23:46. Junior Kayla Carstenson rounded out the Cougars’ scoring 5 with a 23:55.
“The women ran great,” said Grey, “and in fact they are ahead of where I thought they’d be for a season-opener. We’re counting on a lot of ladies who were not big-time players for us last year, but they really stepped up in this race. They have embraced the championship attitude established by last year’s team, and Victoria has spearheaded that attitude. She raced like she has been training, and sometimes that’s a difficult jump. Jacky obliterated the field, and Poppy stuck her nose in there as a freshman. There is a lot of room for growth in this team, and I’m excited about the months ahead.”
Like Kipwambok his fellow Kenyan, Magut had little trouble taking the men’s race, clocking a 25:06 on the 8K course and winning by 49 seconds. All-American Forrest Lewton was 15th with a 26:32 to give a Azusa Pacific a strong 1-2 showing at the top.
A notable gap cut into the Cougars’ chances of taking the team title. Junior J.J. Timphony was next among the Cougar quartet, finishing 35th at 27:08. Junior Spencer Winston came in 67th at 27:56 and freshman Anthony Lacambra made his collegiate debut with a 28:15 to finish 87th out of 213 runners.
“I expected Abednego to win,” added Grey. “He is in great shape. Forrest did his usual thing, and Anthony is going to improve by leaps and bounds. You can see on his face that he is figuring this out. I expect us to vastly improve on our gap. We’ll be fine by the end of the season but it might not be pretty early on.”
Azusa Pacific takes next week off and returns to the course Saturday, Sept. 19, at the UC Riverside Invitational in Riverside, Calif.