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Tiger cross country teams

Tiger cross country teams place sixth at nationals

With the Cowley College men being the defending national champions and the Lady Tigers having captured the 2020 national title, expectations were high for the teams entering the NJCAA Division II Cross Country Nationals held Saturday in Tallahassee, FL. The Tiger cross country teams ran hard but did not get the finishes they hoped for, as both squads placed sixth nationally.

Most cross country programs would love to have a sixth-place finish at nationals, but at Cowley, the goal is always a national title.

"Our national team's finishes were not exactly what we hoped for. However, I am still proud of how hard our athletes ran," Cowley head coach Cameron Rieth said.

Paradise Valley Community College won the men's national championship, and Lansing Community College took home the women's title.

With the heat and humidity in Tallahassee, Florida, the numbers do not tell the whole story for the Tiger cross country teams.

"We thought we came in with every box checked and were ready to go, but sometimes things just do not go the way we want them to," Rieth said. "We have been extremely blessed the last couple of years for things working out for us, especially at the national meet, but Saturday was not our day for both teams."

On the men's side, Cowley's Santiago Nunez-Gonzalez was 14th overall and was named an NJCAA All-American. Goran Duijsters and Joel Rodriguez also ran well and were USTFCCCA Coaches All-Americans. Mesa Community College sophomore Yotuel Garcia won the men's race with a time of 25:25.4.

On the women's side, Abigail Pinnock stepped up and was close to a personal best despite the conditions. For her efforts, Pinnock was named a USTFCCCA Coaches All-American. Yazmin Reyes also ran well and placed 44th. Coconino Community College freshmen Hayley Burns was the top finisher in the women's race with a time of 18:22.8. 

The Tiger men will say goodbye to sophomores Santiago Nunez-Gonzalez, Aidan Wells, Joel Rodriguez, Goran DuijstersAaron Medrano, Jacob Coronado, Basheer Suied, Muneer Suied, and Dylan Roe. At the same time, the Lady Tigers will lose sophomores Abigail Pinnock, Delicia Boothe, Yazmin Reyes, Layla Ingalls, and Andrea Garcia-Gonzalez.

"We will be losing a lot of great homegrown, hardworking, and dedicated sophomores that have been vital to our success on both sides for the past couple of years," Rieth said. "It will be bittersweet to see them leave, but thankfully we have another semester with them."  

Freshmen Randy Rojas-Mendez and Mason Bickle highlight the list of freshmen that will have an opportunity to return for the Tiger men.

"You really don't know who among these freshmen is going to blow up and develop, which is exciting," Rieth said. "If they take the appropriate steps with training and keep making little progress on top of progress, big things have the possibility of happening."

Paula Pi-Rodriguez and Dheniffer Vaz, who suffered an unfortunate injury at the national meet, will return for the Lady Tigers. 

"They are two of the most talented women's runners I have had the chance to work with," Rieth said. "We will add several girls to go along with them. Both teams will now get rested up for a little bit of time and make some notes on the season where we can be better and move forward."