BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - It was a long road, over many miles with a lot of twist and turns, but Brandon Kibert is about ready to cross the finish line of his collegiate cross country career. He will run his final cross country race Saturday at the NAIA Cross Country National Championship.
The senior from Tazewell, Tenn., has been a part of the Union College cross country squad since the sport was brought back to the school in 2004, and he is the last remaining member from the original team. However, current head coach Jamie Jimison did not bring Kibert to Barbourville, he was here thanks to the previous coach and current head cycling coach Chuck Coffey.
Coffey also brought Kibert to Union to participate with the Bulldogs’ cycling program. Unfortunately, his cycling career lasted one race and Kibert put his best foot forward to focus on running.
Kibert was coached by Coffey in his freshman season and the best time from Kibert was 31 minutes and 18 seconds. Kibert was the lone returner when Jimison inherited the job for the 2005 season. Little did anyone know that in his senior year that he would lower the school record to 26:09, over a five-minute improvement from his freshman best. His current school-record run came at the Wilmington (Ohio) Fall Classic last month.
He did not just improve overnight. It took many miles and a lot of work over his four-years at Union.
His best time as a sophomore was 28:46 and it dropped to 27:14, the former school-record in his junior campaign.
Part of his success can be attributed to distance training, not 50 miles a week, rather 80 to 100 miles a week. Kibert noted that he peaked at 110 miles earlier in the month.
Jimison added that Kibert worked hard for it as he built mileage and worked on the technical aspect of his running abilities. Also, Kibert’s confidence grew as the times got better.
The previous record was set at the 2006 AAC/NAIA Region XII Championship as he finished 19th. Kibert admitted how it was tough and bittersweet moment because he missed a trip to nationals by 11 seconds.
This year Kibert, placed fourth and improved his finish by 15 spots earning the trip to the national championship in Kenosha, Wis.
The goal for nationals is to break the 26-minute mark, as indicated by Kibert. He believes it is possible, depending on the conditions at the Dr. Wayne E. Dannehl Cross Country Course in Kenosha. He prefers cold and dry conditions for time, but if the course is wet, Kibert believes he can race through the crowd to a high finish. He will have to battle with over 250 other runners towards the finish line. Jimision thinks it is possible for Kibert to make a run towards All-American status, a Top-30 finish.
Kibert makes his first trip to the cross country championship, but this is not his first national appearance. He competed in the marathon at the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championship last spring. With a time of just over two hours and 48 minutes, Kibert finished 33rd.
After his days at Union are over, he plans to continue his career as both a student, in graduate school, and an athlete, running in marathons.