Aug 30, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Junior Peter Okwera won his first collegiate cross country title as Tennessee started the 2013 season Friday night at the Belmont Opener.
Okwera held off Belmont's Matt Miller in a sprint through the finish line, completed the extended 5,000-meter course in 15 minutes, 41.85 seconds at Percy Ward Park.
The Vols' returning All-American was not the only runner in orange and white in the front of the pack. Tennessee's men placed three in the top 10 with Kyle Walter (15:58.54) finishing sixth and Stephen Derlath taking ninth (16:02.62).
In the women's competition, freshman Emily Williams paced the Tennessee runners in her career debut. Williams crossed the line in 18:49.05. Top UT women's returner Alexis Panisse was 28th in 19:06.75.
Both races did not use traditional cross country scoring but instead used a dual meet format. The men defeated SEC foes Kentucky and Vanderbilt, while the women lost to both rivals. The race was also slightly longer than a 5k.
The winner's circle was a long time coming for Okwera, who recorded five top-10 individual finishes last year as a sophomore. He placed third at the Belmont Opener a year ago and was a season-best second at Commodore Classic.
"Peter had a couple of tough races last year that he didn't win but was very close," Tennessee director of track and field/cross country J.J. Clark said. "He looked good. He looked very controlled."
"It was exciting to see the men's team get going," Clark said. "They've had a good summer. No one graduated from last year, so I look forward to seeing their progress as the year continues."
Williams provided the highlight for the Lady Vols, which had its top five runners place in the top 51. Williams and Panisse where followed by Chelsea Blaase (38th, 19:26.65), Patavia Lowery (46th, 19:54.83) and Kianna Ruff (51st, 20:03.43).
Redshirt senior Kelsey Kane was back in competition for the Lady Vols. She finished shortly after Ruff in 53rd (20:14.75).
"The women had a bright spot in Emily, our newcomer, being our first runner this meet," Clark said. "I thought that she did a great job on that. Our team on the women's side needs to gel a little more. That needs a little work. We'll see what we can do in the next six weeks. I believe we'll come together and run a much better race."
Tennessee Men's Individual Results
1. Peter Okwera, 15:41.85
6. Kyle Walter, 15:58.54
9. Stephen Derlath, 16:02.62
15. Austin Whitelaw, 16:15.74
19. J.R. Creekmore, 16:26.85
30. Jeremy Dickie, 16:36.80
37. Daniel Tobin, 16:46.67
44. Jack Little, 16:52.14
74. Jordan Chaney, 17:32.02
97. Breon Dixon, 18:35.05
Tennessee Women's Individual Results
17. Emily Williams, 18:49.05
28. Alexis Panisse, 19:06.75
38. Chelsea Blaase, 19:26.65
46. Patavia Lowery, 19:54.83
51. Kianna Ruff, 20:03.43
53. Kelsey Kane, 20:14.75
59. Caroline Duer, 20:28.08
63. Amirah Johnson, 20:53.54
76. Nijgia Snapp, 22:00.02
80. Brittney Jackson, 22:32.88