Emmanuel Rotich, Lauren Bartels finish strong in AAC Cross Country Championship

The Tulane cross country team traveled north to Philadelphia for the American Athletic Conference Championships this past Saturday. While the men’s team finished seventh, failing to build upon its runner-up position from last season, junior Emmanuel Rotich snagged a victory on the team’s behalf when he won the individual championship, finishing the 8k with a time of 24:58.6, claiming his first conference championship and remaining undefeated in races this season.

“After viewing the course before we ran again in conference, I knew what I was going to face,” Rotich said. “Winning the individual championship felt so good, to the point that I can’t say we didn’t do as much as last season.”

Rotich came in eight seconds ahead of a longtime conference opponent from the University of Houston, Brian Barraza, who has been named conference athlete of the week over Rotich on multiple occasions this season.

“Going to the conference, I took it as if I have never run with Barraza, even though he beat me in my freshman year. So going in my mind, I was thinking I have never raced Barraza … I knew I’m gonna have the competition, but you know, like I said, I think it was just my day. I’m in good shape, and I’m confident enough, and running with him gives me more confidence moving forward,” Rotich said.

Rotich has yet to lose a race this season, with the only remaining races being the South Central Regional Championship and the NCAA Championship. Rotich won the South Central Regional Championship last year but finished outside the top 50 in the NCAA Championships.

He has, however, improved significantly since then. Rotich has now topped his finish from last year in the AAC Championship, in which he finished third, which will put him in a more advantageous position as the team moves forward.

“I think I’ve seen tremendous progression … I feel like I’m running faster than ever. I’m feeling confident, working with [Head Coach Eric] Peterson, he’s been really good, he’s pushed me to be the athlete who I am right now,” Rotich said.

While Rotich led the men’s team, the women’s team improved upon its performance from last season, finishing fifth in the conference. Senior Lauren Bartels finished fifth among all runners at the race. Associate head coach Michael Nussa said he took pride in the performances of Bartels and the women’s team at the race.

“Our team put together the best race they’ve had all year,” Nussa said. “I’m really proud of the way Lauren competed today. She committed to lead the pack from the beginning of the race, fought hard for 6k and was rewarded with her best conference finish ever.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams will advance to the South Central Regional Championships Nov. 10.

“I’m looking forward to us building on this race as we head to the South Central Regional Championship in two weeks,” Nussa said.

The race will be the last stop for Tulane cross country before the NCAA Championships. Rotich will be a favorite to win the individual title, while the men’s and women’s teams will look to build on their 11th and ninth place finishes from last season, respectively.

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