Dirane, Clunis earn first national titles

Cloud County Sports
David Wilson, Sports Information Director

HUTCHINSON — Rain delays, a Tornado Warning, Hall of Fame inductions and championship performances all encompassed a whirlwind of a weekend for the Cloud County Community College track and field teams during the three-day NJCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, hosted by Hutchinson Community College.

Cloud County had athletes podium in 14 different events en route to a sixth-place finish on the men’s side with 50.5 points, and a ninth-place finish by the women’s team with 30 points.

Freshman distance runner Moses Dirane picked up the first of Cloud County’s two national championships. The Pretoria, South Africa native dominated in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, which didn’t get underway until 8:30 p.m. Friday evening due to a two-hour Tornado Warning delay that forced an evacuation of Gowans Stadium.

Dirane crossed the finish line in 9 minutes, 18.99 seconds, while his teammate and fellow South African freshman, Thobile Mosito, held off South Plains’ Nicholas Rotich to earn second in the event with a time of 9.24.84.

“Moses is a very dependable athlete and did a very nice job staying focused after that delay,” said Cloud County men’s head coach, Harry Kitchener. “It was a neat finish to watch those two (Dirane and Mosito) come back and go first and second after that.”

Dirane would add a fourth-place finish in the 1,500-meter run (4:04.23) during the weekend, while Mosito earned runner-up honors again in the 5,000-meter run (15.00.93).

Sophomore thrower Nayoka Clunis notched the second national title on the weekend for the T-Birds as she concluded her highly decorated career at Cloud County by winning the women’s discus event.

The throw of 166 feet, 10 inches netted Clunis, an 11-time national place winner in her career between the indoor and outdoor seasons, her first national championship. The throw, which broke her own previous school record, also removed the bad taste of Thursday’s hammer throw final that saw Clunis, the No. 1 seed in the event, foul out to open competition.

“She could have easily been the national champion in the hammer throw if things had gone a little better there,” said Cloud County head women’s coach, Ted Schmitz. “But she came back, finished third with another school record in the shot put in a wet ring, and won the discus. To get her head straight after a disappointing Thursday and come back to do very well just shows how mentally tough she is and type of competitor she is.”

Clunis’ shot put throw was marked at 49’8.5”, snapping the previous school record of 48’7.25” she posted on May 8 at the NJCAA Region VI/KJCCC Championships. She also added a fifth-place finish in the javelin (126’7”) Saturday morning.

Cloud County’s other top finishers included freshman distance runner Stephen Marindich, who took third in the men’s 800-meter run with a time of 1:54.63.

Sophomore pole vaulter Chance Chrisman, despite battling a hamstring injury, tied for fourth in the event with a jump of 15’1”.

Freshmen Marco Joseph and Vashon McCarthy rounded out Cloud’s top men finishers as Joseph finished sixth in the 400-meter hurdles (53.26), while McCarthy grabbed a sixth-place finish in the shot put (53’3.75) and seventh in the discus (154’4”).

Freshman thrower Gabbreil Harris-David, who Schmitz said is already on par with marks Clunis had as a freshman, took home a fourth-place finish in the women’s hammer throw with a toss of 163’5”.

In a loaded women’s 800-meter field, freshman Ariel St. John fought her way onto the podium with a seventh-place finish (2:14.51). She also helped the women’s 4×800-meter relay team, consisting of Rebecca LaBerge, Shania Anguish and Thandeka Manzana, to a sixth-place finish.

With a talented group of returners on each side, Kitchener and Schmitz said they are already looking forward to what next year’s crop of T-Birds can accomplish.

“We left some points out there, but we have a lot of freshmen coming back and a great recruiting class for next year,” Kitchener said. “We’re excited to keep working with them.”

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