Nov. 17, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - University of Tennessee sophomore cross country runner Peter Okwera became the first Vol All-American since 2005 with a 30th place finish at the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championship on Saturday afternoon. Okwera crossed the line in a personal-best mark at the E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park course in Louisville, Ky.
A first-year Vol, Okwera navigated the 10,000-meter course in 29 minutes, 53.9 seconds, marking his best 10K run of his Big Orange career. With the top 40 runners earning All-American honors, Okwera becomes the first Vol harrier to earn All-American honors since 2005, when Zach Sabatino crossed the line in 23rd.
"Peter had excellent execution," said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country J.J. Clark. "We set goals and he executed them very well. It was his best race of the season and we're certainly looking forward to coming back here and improving on this mark in the future. He ran a solid race throughout and is an All-American, so a big congratulations is definitely in order."
A native of Kampala, Uganda, Okwera was the third finisher from the Southeastern Conference, behind only Texas A&M's Henry Lelei and Arkansas' Kemoy Campbell. Lelei won the 2012 SEC Championships and Campbell placed fourth at the event. The duo placed fifth and 17th at the NCAA Championship, respectively.
"He said he felt very good through the 8K mark," Clark said. "He just had to muscle it home and tough it out over the last 2K, and that's exactly what he did. I'm very proud of him."
With 72 points, Oklahoma State claimed its third National Title in the past four years and preseason favorite Wisconsin cane in second with 135 total points. Colorado rounded out the top three with 158 points. SEC Champion Arkansas was the top finishing men's squad in 10th place. Texas Tech's Kennedy Kithuka won the individual title in a time of 28:31.3
Okwera, who was also the first Vol to qualify automatically since Sabatino did in 2005, punched his ticket to Louisville with a sixth-place finish at last week's NCAA South Regionals in Tallahassee, Fla. He earned All-South Region honors for that effort and also picked up All-SEC honors for placing sixth and the annual league championships in late October.