Event celebrating its 10th running
The 2019 Cedric Walker HBCU Challenge is less than two weeks away, but there’s still time to register for the 10th Annual running of the event, taking place Saturday, October 5 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The National Scholastic Athletics Foundation (NSAF) is again looking forward to hosting many of the nation’s best Historically Black College and University men’s and women’s cross-country teams and individuals.
Teams can register for the event HERE (registration for entire Great American XC Festival). The starting gun for the men’s 8-kilometer race will go off at 8:45am, while the women’s 5-kilometer challenge will follow at 9:50am. The Challenge was inaugurated to take place concurrently with the GAXC in 2009 and with one year (2015) being lost to severe storms, this year will mark the 10th running. The overall Festival begins at 8:00am and the final high school race goes off at 2:05pm.
The men of Morehouse College and the women of North Carolina A&T State University each made meet history in 2018, winning their respective first team titles in the Challenge. The Maroon Tiger men did so by overcoming the 4-time champions from NCAT, while the Aggie women triumphed in the absence of the 4-time champions from Hampton U. Individually, the men will have a new champion this year for the first time since 2016 as 3-time winner Trey Simons of Morehouse has graduated. For the women, however, NCAT’s 2018 champ G’Jasmyne Butler was a junior and is expected to try and defend her crown as a senior.
The HBCU Challenge was created 10 years ago as a one-of-a-kind event for XC athletes at HBCU schools. Dr. Robert Shumake – a community visionary, businessman and author – was the event’s original title sponsor. The vision was to provide HBCU athletes a high-level athletic event to showcase top harrier individuals and teams, as well as providing social communication opportunities and an exchange of coaching knowledge.
NSAF Board member Cedric Walker – an outstanding coach, visionary and leader of the sport in his own right – was the HBCU Challenge Coordinator until his passing in March, 2013. The event now bears his name – The Cedric Walker HBCU Challenge – and has continued strong in the years since, thanks to the leadership of Jacque Kendall and other NSAF staff.
The competitive history of the Challenge has featured some impressive championship streaks by the Norfolk State University men, the North Carolina A&T State University men, the women of Hampton University and – individually – the aforementioned Trey Simons.
Norfolk State captured the first four men’s crowns, with Philemon Kimutai establishing the still-unbroken 8,000m course record of 24:46.0 in 2009 and Josef Tessema (24:47.8) nearly breaking it a year later. NCAT began its championship run the following year, using great depth to overcome Simon and other front runners from schools like Morehouse U. As mentioned, Simons has graduated after completing his three-peat. He came close in ’16 to breaking the CR with 24:47.2 and then broke 25:00 again last year at 24:57.
After Norfolk State won the first women’s title in ’09, Hampton begun its run of six victories in seven years in ’10. Only Alabama State University, in 2014, could interrupt that run. The Pirates didn’t attend in ’18, so NCAT claimed its first title. Norfolk’s Aurora Scott set the first meet record of 18:27.0 (5,000m) in ’09 – which stood until Alabama State’s Paige Rankin ran 17:53.0 in ’14 to become the first under 18. But in ’17, Eusila Chepkemei (17:27.3), Faith Keitany and Janet Okeago ran the three fastest times in meet history to lead another powerful Hampton triumph.
Over the years, 27 different HBCU schools have competed in the Challenge, representing 10 states and six different intercollegiate conferences – including the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC), Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).