Running as a Team
Rose Tanui took first place at the Texas Tech Open, but the Red Raiders had much more on their minds during the race.
September 19, 2011
by Holly Kitten
Heads turned and cheers erupted from the crowd of people gathered at the finish line. Since the gun had sounded over 15 minutes earlier, the area had been rather quiet. Photographers positioned their cameras, and spectators chatted quietly, squinting their eyes to try and see runners in the distance.
But attention suddenly turned to the trees about 50 yards away, as the first runner emerged in full stride. For the second straight year at the Texas Tech Open, it was Texas Tech's Rose Tanui in the lead, her bright red uniform setting her even further apart than she already was.
"She's amazing," senior teammate Rachel Folan said, "Everybody just looks up to her." As Tanui, who was named Big 12 Runner of the Week on Sept. 6, made her last steps across the finish line, another red uniform followed close behind - another Tech runner. Seconds later, a third red uniform hurried past the finish line. Then a fourth.
"In cross country," Tanui, a native of Burt Forest Kenya, said, "we run as a team. We are trying to help each other."
But in the midst of Texas Tech finishers, there was one person in red who was missing--head coach Jon Murray.
Murray spent the evening in the hospital after suffering from a minor accident, while the women's team won the Texas Tech Open for the fourth-straight season.
Tanui said Murray's absence is what encouraged their team to work so hard.
"This race was special for coach Murray," she said. "He's special to us. He wants us to do our best."
Senior Purity Biwott said Coach Murray was excited about hosting the Texas Tech Open. Who wouldn't be?
The women's cross country team has claimed three-straight Big 12 Championships and placed third in last year's NCAA Cross Country Championships. Tanui said the team's goal this year is to improve their times and repeat the success of 2010, maybe with the addition of the NCAA title.
As for Saturday's race though, their long-term goals were put on hold.
"We wanted to do our best and make sure that we do this for our coach," Tanui said. "We wish he could be there to see us."
Biwott, who placed third at the Texas Tech Open, said running the race for Murray was important.
"If coach [Murray] was here," Biwott said, "he would have wanted to see us run good as a team."
Team. Tanui said that word is what explains so many of their titles and championships.
They run together nearly every day. Whether it is waking up at 5:30 in the morning for practice, or running a race in the evening, Tanui said she and her teammates are constantly encouraging each other to work harder and do their best.
"I have wonderful teammates," Tanui said. "They are so good. It's like a family. I love them."
Though the encouragement is a group effort, Biwott said it is Tanui who really seems to have an effect on the team. She said not only is Tanui a leader on the course, but she is also one in the spirit of the team.
"She's really awesome," Biwott said, "[She's] a good person to train with. You feel comfort when you're training with her because you feel like you will improve each day as your train together. Her encouragement - it shows she's a leader, because she can encourage someone and help someone do something."
Folan agreed, and said Tanui never allows one of her teammates to have low self-esteem.
"When we have a problem, she'll give us advice," Folan said. "When we feel down on ourselves, she always picks us up, not matter what."
Tanui said teamwork was the core foundation to the Lady Raider's success, despite any bragging about her that may have come from teammates. Teamwork was why they won the Texas Tech Open. Teamwork was why they did it for Murray.
"The main focus here is that it's teamwork," Tanui said. "It's not like an individual (sport)."
Murray may not have been among the sea of red at the finish line, but the Lady Raiders are excited about having the chance to visit their coach, so they can tell him about their win at the Texas Tech Open.
Every member of the team is important, Biwott said. That was why they had to run like Murray was there, even if he was not.
"Without one person, there is no team," Biwott said. "Even though he was not here today, he will see what we did for him."