SF State’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams returned from the 900 mile trip to Billings, Mont., where they raced in the NCAA Division II West Region Championship.
Facing multiple challenges including blistering winds and 30 degree weather, the men’s team placed eighth overall against 22 of the top teams from the West Region. Although they came out and performed well, the Gators were two spots shy from qualifying for Nationals.
“I’m not really satisfied with it. I was a spot away from making Nationals and I feel like I didn’t finish the season the way I wanted to. I felt like we had a chance to make Nationals,” said Drew Feldman, who finished 16th overall. “We were behind in the race. We just have to keep working, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth until next year.”
The women’s team finished 15th overall among the top 17 West Region teams. Women’s team captain, Paxton Cota, finished her last race as a Gator placing 47th overall and freshman Cori Harral led the middle Gator pack placing 55th overall.
“Having the course flat made the race difficult because I’m not the best at flat courses,” Harral said. “I like to run hills, plus it was pretty cold during the race and I’m definitely not used to that.”
The frozen hills of Montana proved to be the bitter end of a rather successful season for both teams. Although the teams left disappointed, they left behind several great performances throughout the semester.
The highlight race of their seasons was at the California Collegiate Athletic Championship race where the men’s team placed third overall, which was one of the best finishes in SF State history.
Led by one of the top runners in SF State history, Cota’s experience helped the young women’s team adapt to challenging courses. As the season progressed, the freshmen runners learned to adapt well with the veteran styles of Cota and Lindsey Ragas. The young team placed fifth overall at the CCAA race and tied for one of the best finishes since 2006.
“I thought this was a great season for both teams. The top-5 men were consistent and ran well considering we weren’t very deep. We placed third in conference which is among the best ever at SF State,” Lyons said. “The women were young but seemed to adapt well and our returners showed good leadership.”
Next season, the Gators will return without seniors Cota and Michael Garaventa. The loss of two top seniors will be difficult to sustain, but coach Lyons said there’s a lot of experience left on both teams.
“We graduate Paxton and Michael and return everyone else. We’ll have experience and another year of training,” Lyons said. “We expect to be back with the top teams in the CCAA and West Region.”