Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton and Betsy Saina are friends, running partners and Kenyans. On Friday, they will be leading the pack at the NCAA Midwest Regional cross country meet in Springfield, Mo.
For roughly 20 minutes, their friendship gives way to competition. But only for 20 minutes.
Tuliaumk-Bolton, a senior at Wichita State, won the regional last year. Saina, a senior at Iowa State, finished second. At the national meet, Saina finished ninth, three spots ahead of Tuliamuk-Bolton.
Their bond started when Tuliamuk-Bolton attended Iowa State before transferring to WSU. They talk every day. They talk about school, Kenya’s economy, classes and running as professionals.
That doesn’t change this week, even with a big race coming up. They will talk about the race and encourage each other to do well.
“When we go to a race we put our friendship aside,” Tuliamuk-Bolton said. “But whatever happens in the race, doesn’t really affect our friendship. The race is separate from our social life.”
The top two teams (plus possible at-large teams) and the top four individuals from non-qualifying teams advance to the NCAA Championships on Nov. 17 in Louisville, Ky. Tuliamuk-Bolton wants to find the right balance between advancing and conserving energy for the national race. She suspects runners such as Saina and other top athletes will save their best for the next meet. No. 2 Iowa State, the Big 12 champion, should battle No. 21 Oklahoma State, Big 12 runnerup, for the two team spots.
“I’m just going to follow and see what happens and then react to what happens,” she said. “I am sure because we only have a week in between, I am sure that nobody really wants to take out real hard, because they don’t want to be tired.”
Tuliamuk-Bolton’s best time this fall in the 6 kilometers is 19 minutes, 43.90 seconds. She won last year’s regional with a time of 20:40.68.
Coach Kirk Hunter said he thinks the course in Springfield, with several hills on the 3-kilometer loop, plays to her talents. She won the 5-kilometer race there in September on a rainy day and a muddy track.
“We’re anticipating that the course is going to be rough, because we ran on it in the mud,” Hunter said. “I think this is a course where strength really comes in handy. Over the latter part of that race, it’s going to take a lot of strength to see who wins that race.”
WSU’s women’s team is one of 35 in the field. The men’s 10-kilometer race features 30 teams, including top-ranked Oklahoma State.
Ready for real — WSU forward Chadrack Lufile is back at practice after sitting out Monday’s exhibition game with a hyperextended left knee. He is hopeful a string of injuries that included a dislocated shoulder are behind him.
The Shockers open the regular season on Saturday against North Carolina Central and Lufile wants to be ready. He also sat out Shocker Madness and WSU’s closed scrimmage with South Dakota State, along with numerous practices.
“It’s frustrating, but I’m just happy this is the beginning of the season and not the middle of the season,” he said. “Exhibition games don’t really count, so I want to get myself healthy for the games that really count so I can come back 100 percent and help our team.”
Lufile, a 6-foot-9 junior, is a transfer from Coffeyville Community College.
Black, purple and pink — WSU women’s basketball coach Jody Adams and Kansas State coach Deb Patterson will speak at the Color Me Pink Luncheon on Dec. 4 at Koch Arena.
The event begins at 11:30 a.m. and a $25 ticket includes admission to that night’s KSU-WSU game.
Proceeds go to breast cancer research. For information call 316-978-3267.