By Bob Flynn
Special to the Register
Head coach Rick Erdmann and the Eastern Kentucky University men’s cross country team were recognized for their record-breaking 2013 season by the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate on Thursday.
Madison County legislators Rita Smart and Jared Carpenter passed resolutions on the floor of the Capitol honoring the EKU cross country program for sustaining “a pattern of dominance over the last decade.”
Erdmann and six members of the team — seniors Soufiane Bouchikhi and Wade Meddles, juniors Ben Toroitich and Sean Vandermosten, sophomore Ben Turner and freshman Ambrose Maritim — received standing ovations from both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The following achievements were recognized by the House and Senate on Thursday:
— The EKU men’s team placed 15th out of the 31 top teams in the country at the Division I NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., the highest finish in program history
— The Colonels defeated traditional powers such as Stanford, Michigan and Princeton at the NCAA Championships
— Senior Soufiane Bouchikhi led EKU at the national championships, finishing 26th out of 254 competitors to earn All-America honors for the second consecutive year
— The EKU men won the NCAA Southeast Region Championships for the first time in program history
— The Colonels, who had finished second at the Southeast Regional the last two seasons, placed six runners in the top-21 to finish with 58 points and easily defeat the likes of Virginia (96 points), North Carolina State (101 points), North Carolina (137), Virginia Tech (167 points), William & Mary (232 points), Louisville (236 points), Duke (253 points), Kentucky (336 points), etc.
— Rick Erdmann was named the NCAA Southeast Region Men’s Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season
— Six Colonels — seniors Soufiane Bouchikhi and Wade Meddles, juniors Ole Hesselbjerg, Thijs Nijhuis and Ben Toroitich and freshman Ambrose Maritim — earned All-Southeast Region honors
— By winning the Southeast Region, the EKU men qualified for the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive year
— The EKU men were ranked as high as No. 11 in the country by the U.S. Track and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) during the season
— The EKU men won their eighth consecutive Ohio Valley Conference title in 2013, while the EKU women’s team won its seventh OVC title in the last eight years
— Soufiane Bouchikhi became only the fourth runner ever (joining fellow Colonels Grant Colehour, John Nganga and Jacob Korir) to win four consecutive individual OVC titles, defeating a field of 92 runners with an 8K time of 24:14.06. His victory marked the 10th straight year that a runner from EKU has won the OVC men’s title
— Senior Una Britton was the individual OVC women’s champion, winning the 5K race with a time of 17:42.61
— Rick Erdmann earned his 20th OVC Men’s Coach of the Year award and 27th OVC Women’s Coach of the Year award following the conference meet
— EKU dominated the OVC postseason awards in 2013 – Soufiane Bouchikhi was named the OVC Male Cross Country Runner of the Year (for the fourth consecutive year), Ann Eason was named the OVC Female Cross Country Runner of the Year (for the second consecutive year) and Ambrose Maritim was named the OVC Male Freshman of the Year.