WALNUT, Calif. – Kennedy Kithuka never fails to put on a show.
Late Friday night, beneath the bright lights at Historic Hilmer Lodge Stadium, the Red Raider senior brought a full day of world class track and field competition to a close with a world class performance of his own.
Racing in his first outdoor 5,000-meter event as a Red Raider, Kithuka shattered the 7-year-old school record and ascended to the top of the NCAA Division I performance chart with a memorable and downright dominant performance.
“I was very pleased,” Kithuka said after the race. “It feels good. I knew I was going to run well. I wasn’t focused on the school record, what I wanted was to run the fastest time.”
It took just 1,600-meters before Kithuka separated himself from the highly-touted field. And he never looked back, eventually cruising across the finish line with a school record and NCAA-leading time of 13 minutes 26.98 seconds. The performance shattered the previous record mark by 14 seconds.
Kithuka’s freshly etched outdoor school record falls in line with a 2013 indoor campaign that featured school record performances in each the mile (3:59.53), 3,000-meters (7:50.26), 5,000-meters (13:25.38) and as the anchor leg on the program’s fastest distance medley relay team.
“It was good to see him back out there doing what he does best,” Texas Tech distance coach Jon Murray said. “He’s just very consistent in what he does in training and running. It just shows what he does every day in his life. He takes care of his business, and I’m just proud of his effort.”
The race jumpstarted a successful showing by a slew of distance runners at the second of three days of competition at the 56th annual Mt. SAC Relays.
Shortly after Kithuka’s record performance, teammate Evans Tuitoek picked up his second victory of the weekend as he cruised to a first place finish in the B-section of the 5,000-meter run in 14:05.07. Tuitoek won the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase Thursday, and now has won five of his six races this season. His only loss came at the Texas Tech Open in a second-place effort to Kithuka in the 1,500-meter run.
Meanwhile, Sharlene Nickle turned in an outdoor career-best time of 16:41.31 finishing 10th in the women’s 5,000-meter A-section.
Early in Friday’s events, Red Raider junior Shujaa Benson recorded a season-best in the long jump with a leap of 7.42-meters (24’-4.25”). The effort came on his third attempt on the afternoon into a headwind of 2.3 meters-per-second. The performance came after Benson finished seventh in the men’s 110-meter hurdles during the first event of the day on the Hilmer Lodge Stadium track.
In the women’s sprints, junior Montenae Roye-Speight clocked the fastest time by a Lady Raider this season in the 400-meter dash finishing fourth overall in the field with a time of 53.83. She was followed by Amoy Blake in 15th who crossed the finish line in 54.93.
Meanwhile, Red Raider sophomore Nick Rivera went on to turn in a top-10 finish in the men’s 800-meter run crossing the finish line in 1:50.97. The reigning Big 12 Champion in the event finished ninth overall in his second race of the day. Rivera opened his Friday with a time of time of 3:50.85 in the 1,500-meter run.
He was followed by teammate Tommy Brinn in the 800-meters who finished 10th overall with a season-best time of 1:51.14.
Junior Michaela Palu turned in a top-5 performance in the women’s high jump finishing fifth overall with a clearance of 1.70-meters (5’-7.00”) on her second attempt.
Texas Tech wraps up competition at the Mt. SAC Relays Saturday with events scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.