The 2014 cross-country season brought many obstacles to the young women’s team. One of the main obstacles the team faced was bringing in the new runners to an unfamiliar system and a new level of competition. The team was made up of only three returning runners from the 2013 season and 10 freshmen. While other coaches would have been a little worried with the large amount of inexperience in the college level of some of the runners, head coach Tom Lyons knew the freshmen runners would transition well with help and guidance of the veterans.
Team captain and one of the top runners in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, Paxton Cota, led the young women’s team by placing first for the Gators in three out of the five races in the season. Cota battled minor ankle injuries throughout the season and missed two races for the Gators. Despite the absence of Cota in the season opener and UCSD Triton Classic, the team performed well by being under the leadership of returning runner Lindsey Ragas.
Ragas talent shined during the Gators’ season opener where she placed first for the team and finished the 6k race with a best-personal time of 22:45. At the UCSD Triton Classic, Ragas placed first for the Gators in the 6k race. Ragas led the middle Gator pack in the races where she ran along new runners and took charge in the two races Cota missed.
One freshman who proved to transition well to the college level, and always kept up with the veterans was Cori Harral. Harral placed second for the Gators in four out of five races, and was a first-time All-CCAA recipient.
Although the team will be losing Cota next season, the Gators have a promising future of returning to the NCAA Division II West Region Championship race once again. The team will still have Ragas, Harral, Rocio Pacheco, and Emily Harper leading the way. The team’s young talent, guidance of the veterans and experience will help the team next season, especially during the post-season when the Gators fight for a ticket to the NCAA Division II National Championship race.