Dirt puffs up, sweat trickles down their sides, ribs expand to the point of pain; the UWG Cross Country Teams’ runners keep going. Coach Tim Brooks has coached cross-country at UWG since 2010 and as an alumnus of the University of West Georgia (UWG), he enjoys helping UWG achieve success in sports.
“There is no other place I would rather be coaching than right here at UWG,” said Brooks.
Though both the men’s and women’s teams have shorter rosters than past seasons, with only seven runners on each team, Brooks remains confident his runners.
“Currently, we have one of the top freshman female in the conference in Caitlyn Farrell, and she has a great chance of making nationals individually, as well do our top two men Zack Hill and Sosteen Kirwa,” boasted Brooks. “Our ladies and men have both been ranked in the top 10 in the region.”
Cross-country is a sport that might not get as much attention as sports like football due to the fact that it is harder for spectators to see. Regardless, Brooks maintains its importance because cross-country “is more than just running. It involves strategy, mental toughness and it tests your ability to push yourself beyond your own limits.”
Though both teams seem to have grown as individuals and as a team, the competition from other schools proves stiff. According to Brooks, the Gulf Conference has added many formidable programs in the past five years, such as Shorter University, Lee University, Mississippi College and Union University. International athletes appear to make up a large percentage of the rosters of larger programs, another competitive factor to consider.
Kirwa, an international student from Kenya, appreciates all the resources that UWG Cross Country has to offer him. This includes the opportunity to learn about different cultures, to progress in his sport and of course, his athletic scholarship.
“I am from a country where running is [celebrated] like football here,” said Kirwa. “I am from a tribe called Lundi, where most of the world class runners come from.”
Kirwa is a sophomore majoring in information management, and he plans to spend the duration of his undergraduate college experience running for UWG. One idea that both Kirwa and Brooks agree on is that a larger roster would help the team.
The way the scoring system works within cross country, the top five runners on a team score and the sixth and seventh might force the competition to gain points. Ideally, a team wants the lowest score to win a meet. With a small roster like UWG’s, every runner must compete for every event, or the team might not even receive a score. Kirwa is dealing with a calf injury, and he is not the only one under strain. Luckily, for UWG Cross Country, only one of their seniors is graduating soon, and recruitment looks promising for next season.
“We have to just go as a pack to be able to do well,” said Kirwa. “I always feel good when I am out there with my team.”