Mutai, a Kapsabet, Kenya native, certainly left his mark on the ULM cross country program in his final season on the Bayou. Although he fell just short in his quest to qualify for the NCAA national meet a third time, Mutai put together one of the greatest seasons ever by a Warhawk runner. In addition to the second place showing at the Sun Belt Championships, he claimed three individual meet championships (McNeese Relays, Warhawk Invitational, Northwestern Invitational). His 25th place finish at the South Central Regional also earned him all-regional honors for the third straight year. Although his senior standout didn't qualify for the national meet, Varga was proud of his efforts. "Mutai went for the win his senior year," Varga said after the regional. "He paid for going out too hard in the wind, but no regrets. He didn't want to just make the national meet, he wanted to win the regional. He will come back and have a strong track season."
The men's team had two other harriers, sophomore Silah Chumba and junior Hillary Kirwa, who joined Mutai in forming a stellar front pack. Chumba earned third team all-conference honors following his 11th place finish at the Sun Belt Championships, capping a fantastic second season in Monroe. "Silah ran phenomenal all season and, at regionals, he ran a big PR," said Varga. "It was a huge jump from his finish at regionals last year, which is an accomplishment because he is a 1,500 guy." Chumba's season was also highlighted by third place finishes at the Northwestern Invitational and the Warhawk Invitational.
The ULM team believed they were getting a huge talent in Kirwa when he arrived as a transfer from Cameron University in Oklahoma at the start of the year, and the newcomer didn't disappoint. The junior was on a roll before falling victim to a recurring shin injury that shelved him for several meets. Despite the injuries, Kirwa was still able to record a fine season. He combined with Mutai to win the McNeese Relay to start the season, and then recorded a pair of runner-up finishes at the Northwestern and Warhawk Invitationals. Despite the nagging injury, Kirwa still toughed out a 32nd place finish at the Sun Belt Championships. "He hadn't run for two weeks because of injury, but he stepped up for his teammates and ran hard despite the calf problems," said Varga following the race.
The Warhawk women were led the entire season by senior Sharon Sason and sophomore Anakaren Lopez. Sason was the top ULM finisher at every meet, racking up three top-five finishes. The Holon, Israel native finished second overall at both the Warhawk Invitational and Northwestern Invitational. She recorded a 32nd place finish at the Sun Belt Championships, and finished 91nd at the South Central Regional. The conference meet finish was a 30 spot improvement from a year ago. "Sharon ran a huge PR," Varga said after the meet. "She ran like a senior. I'm proud of her- she is a 1,500 runner as well, so she ran excellent all season."
Lopez recorded a pair off third place finishes during the season, finishing right behind Sason at the Warhawk and Northwestern Invitational. Fellow sophomores Beth Koestler and Teona Glave were solid contributors as well, scoring for the Warhawks in every meet they raced in. As a team, the women placed second overall at the Warhawk Invitational and tied for third at the Northwestern Invitational.
The ULM runners will return to action soon, as the 2013 track season beings on January 18 at the McNeese Indoor Invite in Lake Charles, La.