E.A. Sports Today

Eason: ‘A big sigh of relief’

EKU senior gets her elusive OVC cross-country title, Maritim sets men’s record; Colonels sweep team crowns

Eastern Kentucky senior Ann Eason (R) and her mother, Cindy, share a warm moment after Ann won the OVC women's cross country race.

Eastern Kentucky senior Ann Eason (R) and her mother, Cindy, share a warm moment after Ann won the OVC women’s cross country race.

“There was definitely a big sigh of relief. When I saw my mom after the race I think that’s when the big ‘Finally’ happened. It kind of took a while to sink in, but I definitely feel good. … I really wanted it.”

— OVC women’s champion Ann Eason

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Ann Eason collected the only piece that was missing from her Ohio Valley Conference cross country resume Saturday morning.

The Eastern Kentucky senior had been the OVC Runner of the Year three times – the only woman to win the award three years in a row — yet for all her success had never won the conference championship meet. Until Saturday.

With the exception of a few seconds in the second mile, Eason led wire-to-wire and won the race at Oxford Lake Park in 17:04.73. She won by two seconds over Belmont’s Hannah Whitman.

Eastern Kentucky swept the men’s and women’s team titles by substantial margins.

EKU sophomore Ambrose Maritim won the men’s race in a course record 23:59.29. Even with their best runner home resting up for the NCAA Regionals, the Colonels still pushed the first five runners across the line for their ninth straight title and 23rd overall. The EKU women had five of the first six and six of the first eight in winning for the 28th time.

In Eason’s previous two OVC Championships she finished eighth and sixth. A series of “heartbreaking” setbacks kept her out of last year’s race when she was expected to be the favorite.

“This has been a goal of mine since I was a freshman,” she said enthusiastically. “I just remember after my freshman year saying to myself I want to win this. Sorry, I get really emotional when I talk about it, but it was definitely a huge goal.

“This conference, I know we’re not the SEC, I know we’re not the most competitive conference, but this is our conference and it means a lot to our school. I feel like I’ve let them down over the years … but now being able to run it and share it with my team, this has been a huge goal of mine for a long time.”

Eason said the enormity of the accomplishment didn’t hit home until she saw her mother after crossing the finish line.

“There was definitely a big sigh of relief,” she said. “When I saw my mom after the race I think that’s when the big ‘Finally’ happened. It kind of took a while to sink in, but I definitely feel good. … I really wanted it.”

It was emotional for her mother, too. Cindy Eason embraced Ann warmly after the race and fought back tears from behind her sunglasses as she shared in her daughter’s success.

“This was one of the things she set her sights on when she came in to EKU; it’s something she really wanted,” said Cindy Eason, a former collegiate swimmer who has coached her in various sports. “I think she felt like she missed some opportunities along the way so this being her last chance it was something I knew she really wanted and … it sets her up for just a tremendous senior season and whatever else she wants to do.”

Eason has been a multiple All-American, but said in her other two OVC Championships she didn’t know quite what to do as the race unfolded. She knew exactly what to do Saturday.

Eason and Wittman went out quickly and ran virtually stride-for-stride in front of the pack. Wittman took a short lead briefly midway through, but Eason moved back in front shortly before they hit the bridge and stayed there the rest of the race.

“That’s exciting for Ann,” EKU coach Rick Erdmann said. “She’s been an All-American numerous times in track and I was really glad to see her win because she’s had struggles with injuries. Last year when she started off the season she was outstanding. She was running with the big time girls and I thought if she keeps this up she’s going to dangerous in the NCAAs.”

Belmont's Hannah Wittman (L) and Eastern Kentucky's Ann Eason set the pace in the OVC women's race at Oxford Lake Park.

Belmont’s Hannah Wittman (L) and Eastern Kentucky’s Ann Eason set the pace in the OVC women’s race at Oxford Lake Park.

Colonels sweep men’s race

Somebody from EKU was going to win the men’s race; it was just a question of which runner.

The Colonels went out in a pack and served as a human barricade for the rest of the field until Maritim broke away somewhere in the fourth mile. He beat teammate Luka Ndungu to the line by three seconds. And the next EKU runner by 11, the next by 15 and the next by 23.

Tennessee Tech’s Geoffrey Sambu was the first non-EKU runner to cross.

It was Maritim’s first collegiate win.

Eastern Kentucky's Ambrose Maritim won the OVC men's race in a course-record time. (Photo by Emil Loeken)

Eastern Kentucky’s Ambrose Maritim won the OVC men’s race in a course-record time. (Photo by Emil Loeken)

OVC CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Oxford Lake Park

MEN’S RACE (8K)
Team results

Eastern Kentucky 15
Morehead State 90
SIU-Edwardsville 93
Belmont 97
Eastern Illinois 109
SE Missouri 177
Tennessee Tech 181
Murray State 222
Austin Peay 282
UT Martin 297
Jacksonville State 301
Tennessee State 382

Individual top 15
Ambrose Maritim, EKU 23:59.29
Luka Ndungu, EKU 24:02.07
Ole Hesselbjerg, EKU 24:10.31
Sean Vandermosten, EKU 24:14.92
Jakob Abrahamsen, EKU 24:22.20
Geoffrey Sambu, Tech 24:28.18
Marcus Bridger-Wilkinson, Bel 24:34.58
Clint Kliem, SIUE 24:36.62
Ronald Korir, EKU 24:40.88
Gary Monroe, Mor 24:42.86
John Sharpe, Bel 24:44.18
Thomas Koringo, EKU 24:50.91
Keith Meyer, SIUE 24:51.97
Nick Moore, SIUE 25:01.63
Riley McInerney, EIU 25:04.55

WOMEN’S RACE (5K)
Team results

Eastern Kentucky 19
Eastern Illinois 78
Belmont 86
SE Missouri 95
Murray State 144
Morehead State 154
SIU-Edwardsville 191
Austin Peay 225
Jacksonville State 274
Tennessee Tech 314
UT Martin 324
Tennessee State 340

Individual top 15
Ann Eason, EKU 17:04.73
Hannah Wittman, Bel 17:06.81
Anna Reddin, EKU 17:26.12
Una Britton, EKU 17:29.32
Ann Tum, EKU 17:39.62
Julie Mathisen, EKU 17:41.09
Rebekah Lawson, SEMO 17:42.10
Ashley Svec, EKU 17:43.81
Emily Brelsfoard, EIU 17:45.16
Alex Morris, Mor 17:48.20
Jessica King, Bel 17:56.04
Gloria Westlake, SEMO 17:57.30
Victoria Quarton, EIU 17:59.36
Maria Baldwin, EIU 17:59.98
Meagan Smith, Mur 18:07.37



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