And she ran: Paxton Cota continues to excel, beat records in SF State cross country

At her Southern California high school, SF State cross country runner Paxton Cota spent less time tearing up the race course, and more time socializing.

“I remember at first I kind of didn’t want to run, I just wanted to meet people,” said Cota of when she ran for Dana Hills High School. “Four years is a long time to dedicate to a sport, but I’m happy I’ve gone this far with it.”

Fast forward to today, and Cota is in her fourth year running for the SF State Gators. She holds three records on SF State’s all-time best list, and her veteran experience led her to becoming team captain in her final year.

“Paxton is one of the most accomplished runners that I’ve worked with,” said head coach Tom Lyons. “She’s the reason our team is what it is right now. To make all conference consecutive as a SF State athlete is pretty impressive.”

At the 2013 California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Cota earned All-CCAA honors by placing third in the 3k steeplechase with a personal best time of 11:26. She was five seconds short of ranking first on the SF State all-time best list.

“I remember it was my first time trying steeplechase that season,” Cota said. “I felt really proud of myself. Maybe this upcoming season I can take first. I’m going after that record.”

Two years before, Cota earned All-CCAA honors by placing 14th overall in the 6k with a personal best time of 21:57, ranking her fourth in SF State history.

“It was after the meet that Tom came running up to me saying I broke a record,” Cota said. “I had no idea. I was so shocked. It was a great moment and feeling.”

As a freshman, Cota found success by establishing herself as a top runner. She anticipated carrying that momentum into 2012, but it took a turn that landed her on the bench for half the season.

“It was hard not being able to help the team out,” Cota said of having pneumonia that season. “I only ran two meets that year and it’s hard coming back from any sickness or injury. I had to push hard and remind myself why I was here on the team.”

Cota found herself in a familiar place this season, on the sidelines after she sustained a minor ankle injury during practice a week before the season opener. But after she worked through her injury, she raced at the SF State invitational and made her presence known by placing 10th in the 6k with a time of 22:30.

“Everyone did well,” said returning runner Lindsey Ragas. “Especially having Paxton back, we did good as a team.

She now has the responsibility of leading a team composed of nine freshmen as she prepares for graduation this upcoming spring semester.

“She’s a great leader. She’s taken all the girls and brought them into returning runners,” Lyons said. “I think just by the way that I’ve seen her in the four years we’ve had her, it looks like she’s set up for another big season.”

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