Kithuka Captures Big 12 Title

Texas Tech senior Kennedy Kithuka won the Big 12 title in the 5,000-meter run Saturday.

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Feb. 23, 2013

Big 12 Champion Kennedy Kithuka

AMES, Iowa - Senior Kennedy Kithuka's remarkable 2013 season continued Saturday on the opening day of the Big 12 Indoor Championships. The senior, and 2012 NCAA Cross Country Champion, remained unbeaten during his career while becoming the first Red Raider in school history to win a conference title in the 5,000-meter run.

Inside the Lied Recreation Center on the Iowa State campus, Kithuka blew away the field in the final 1,600-meters to take the title with a meet record time of 13:41.01. The performance highlighted an opening day for Texas Tech that saw 11 athletes advance to Sunday's finals and the men's distance medley relay earn its best finish at an indoor conference meet since 2008.  

"It was a special performance from Kennedy today," Texas Tech head coach Wes Kittley said. "I'm proud of the way several of our athletes competed, and I'm looking forward to several more in tomorrow's finals."

After picking up a late 16 points from both Kithuka's performance in the 5,000-meter run and  the men's DMR to close Saturday's action, the Red Raiders ended the day in fifth place with 23.50 points while the women's team ended the opening day in 10th with 4.50 points.

The Red Raider distance medley relay concluded the busy day of action with a third place finish, crossing the line with a time of 9:43.89 in a highly competitive field that featured Texas who entered the meet with the No. 1 time in the nation. The Longhorns finished second overall just ahead of Tech with a time of 9:42.61 while Oklahoma took first with a time of 9:42.37.

Texas Tech senior, and returning All-American, Katie Grimes became the first Tech athlete of the day to qualify for Sunday's finals as she cruised to a first place finish in the preliminaries of the women's 60-meter hurdles. Grimes flew across the finish line with a time of 8.17 seconds -marking the second fastest time in both school history and her already decorated career.

Moments, later Red Raider freshman Tramaine Maloney punched his ticket to Sunday's finals in the men's 60-meter high hurdles crossing the finish line with a new personal-best time of 8.10 seconds.

In the women's sprints, Lady Raider sophomore Cierra White automatically qualified for the finals of both the 60-meter dash and the 200-meter dash. White finished with a time of 7.42 in the 60-meter dash and matched her career best in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.62.

Meanwhile, teammate Candace Jackson also qualified for the finals of the 200-meter dash with a lifetime best time of 23.75.

Texas Tech had four athletes advance to the finals in the 400-meter dash as senior Isaiah Gill and Joseph Richards III qualified for the Red Raiders while Christen Rivers and Amoy Blake advanced for the Lady Raiders.

Texas Tech also advanced two athletes to the finals of the 800-meter run as Nick Rivera and Caitlin Waters each recorded personal bests Saturday. Rivera finished second overall with a personal-best time of 1:52.02, while Waters qualified for the Lady Raiders with a time of 2:12.51.

Meanwhile, McKenzie Archer qualified for the Lady Raiders in the 1000-meter run with a personal best of 2:53.75.

In the field events, freshman Shelby Poncik got the Lady Raiders on the board early Saturday with a seventh-place finish in the finals of the women's pole vault. Poncik cleared a bar of 3.73-meters (12'-2.75") on her first attempt and becomes the first Lady Raider freshman to score at the Big 12 Indoor Championships in the pole vault since 2010.

Lady Raider LeTristan Pledger later finished seventh in the finals of the women's long jump with a leap of 6.05-meters (19'-10.25").

Texas Tech had a trio of freshmen compete Saturday in the women's pentathlon where Natalie Thompson led the Lady Raiders finishing ninth with a score of 3,619 - a new career best for her in the muti-event competition. She was followed by Natalie Baker in 16th with 3,183 points and Alexis Gallimore in17th with 3,133 points.  

Texas Tech freshman Kyle Thompson finished the day in ninth place with 2,670 points in the men's heptathlon competition. The Argyle, Texas native jumped out to a fast start finishing third overall in the 60-meter dash to begin the afternoon. Thompson crossed the line in 7.12 seconds to pick up 840 points.

Thompson recorded a new personal-best in the long jump with a leap of 6.63-meters (21'-9.00") and will continue competition tomorrow in the final four events of the heptathlon.

Action is set to resume Sunday at 11 a.m. in the final day of competition at the Lied Recreation Center.




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