UMO's Kopmels finishes runner-up

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Keep the pace.

Cas Kopmels used that strategy to the best of his ability during the season-ending Conference Carolinas men’s cross country championship meet.

It paid the dividend he expected.

The long-distance specialist emerged as the runner-up and earned first-team all-conference accolades on his home course. He ran the flat, 8K course in a personal-best 24 minutes, 32.6 seconds.

“In the regular season, our coach [Jackie Kirby] always gives us a goal … go out at this pace for the first mile,” Kopmels said. “But all she said to me today is ‘stay with those two guys and keep going.’ It’s not about the time, it’s just about the placement.

“I prefer that, to be honest.”

Kopmels and his teammates ran together once the starting gun sounded.

He eventually separated from his teammates and found himself right where Kirby expected — on the heels of Emmanuel’s Luke Gaddis and UNC Pembroke’s Joshua Chepkesir.

Soon, Kopmels and Gaddis chased Chepkesir, who gained a sizable lead between the second and third loop.

“He started speeding up halfway through,” Kopmels said. “People were screaming I need to keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn’t get too far so I can still see him. He did great today … was like the wind.

“I’m pretty happy with second place.”

Chepkesir emerged as the individual champ in 24:13.2 and was named the conference’s runner of the year.

Led by Gaddis’ top-three performance, Emmanuel successfully defended its team title from the spring. The Lions compiled 39 points, followed by league newcomer UNC Pembroke (55 points) and UMO (67).

Emmanuel became just the fifth school in conference history to secure back-to-back championships along with High Point, Lees-McRae, Queens-Charlotte and eight-time title-holder UMO.

Teammates Cameron Lee (ninth), Luis Hernandez-Perez (11th) and Aidan Gilbride (14th) joined Kopmels on the all-conference team.

Women

Individual champ Jackline Kosgei, a freshman at UNC Pembroke, claimed the women’s title in 22:45.7. She garnered runner and freshman of the year accolades from her conference peers.

UMO’s Laila Abouzaid picked up all-conference honors with a second-place effort of 23:00.3. Teammates Vennise Shelton (eighth) and Sydney Macdonald (20th) also grabbed spots on the all-conference list.

King edged UNCP, 60-61, for the team title.

UMO finished fourth with 101 points.

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