Cloud County Athletics
David Wilson, Sports Information Director
PITTSBURG — There’s not much Cloud County Community College head men’s track coach Harry Kitchener, a Cloud County and NJCAA Hall of Famer, hasn’t done or seen in his 42 years at the helm.
That changed Saturday.
After his teams use to mop up the old Prairie Junior College Conference his first 20 years, the T-Birds had not been able to get over the hump and win a Region VI indoor championship until this weekend when they posted 172-5 points to edge perennial powerhouse Barton Community College (155).
“The conference is a lot different that it use to be,” Kitchener said. “It’s exciting we were able to do it and were able to form a team that has the talent to compete at that level. It’s a nice win for the guys and we’re glad to achieve it after knocking on the door a lot of times finishing second.”
Cloud County recorded six individual event wins en route to the Region VI crown, two of which came from freshman distance runner Santino Kenyi in the 5,000-meter run (14:47.81) and in the mile (4:22.95).
Kenyi, who added a third-place finish in the 800-meter run (1:55.89) and seventh-place finish in the 3,000-meter, was named Region VI High Point Athlete of the Meet for his efforts.
Fellow freshmen Dennis Kiptoo and Kwanele Mthembu joined Kenyi on the podium in the 5,000-meter and mile events.
Kiptoo was the runner up in each event, crossing the finish line in 4:23.60 in the mile and running a 14:50.96 clip in the 5,000-meter, while Mthembu finished third (4:26.37) and fourth (15:09.36) in the two events, respectively.
Sophomore multi athlete Louis Humbert contributed two event victories of his own as he won the pentathlon with a school-record score of 5,004 points and backed it up with a school record in the men’s pole vault with a vault of 15-feet, 7.25 inches.
Humbert’s record in the pentathlon topped the 3,836 put up by Justin Robinson in 1999, while his pole vault mark edged out the 15’7 recorded by Chance Chrisman in 2017.
“Louis was really, really incredible and held together very well,” Kitchener said. “He’s battled a hamstring much of the year and we really hadn’t vaulted him in any other meets until this weekend. He just hit some really big marks.”
Cloud County also received wins from sophomore Lesley Mahlakoane in the 400-meter dash in a time of 48.29, and in the distance medley relay by the quartet of sophomore Marco Joseph and freshmen Ablel Gebreselase, Saba Khvichava and Gabriel Chinya with a time of 10:13.28.
Their time would be the second fastest time in the NJCAA only behind Cloud County’s primary team of Mahlakoane, Kenyi, Kiptoo and Khvichava.
“The biggest surprise of the meet was winning the distance medley relay with our ‘B Team’ on Friday,” Kitchener said. “It was really exciting for me to see those guys to come in out of nowhere and run one of the best times in the country and see some of those freshmen come through.”
The T-Birds also received strong finishes from a pair of sophomore jumpers in Kyle Alcine and Peter Ackah.
Alcine placed third in the high jump (6’7.25) and fourth in the triple jump (50’1), while Ackah took home third in the long jump (24’7.4).
The men’s 4X800-meter relay team of Thom Reynders, Stephen Holland, Gebreselase and Chinya also added a third-place finish with a time of 7:56.36.
Sophomore thrower Levi Armon also turned in his best day of the indoor season, finishing sixth in the shot put (48’3.6) and seventh in the weight throw (50’4.3) to qualify for nationals in both events.
Cloud County will have two weeks off before heading back to Pittsburg for the NJCAA National Indoor Championships, scheduled for March 1-2, where it will not hunt for a national title to add to the trophy case.
“It’s going to come down to the breaks on who beats who when these other teams comes in. There will be teams that come in that beat up on Barton and Coffeyville in some events to help us out, but then we have some good teams coming in that can beat us up,” Kitchener said. “I do think we can win it if we have some things go right.”
Notes: Kitchener won the Region VI Men’s Coach of the Year award for the fifth time in his career and first since 2008, while assistant coach Drew Mahin won Region VI Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year during Saturday’s trophy presentations.