Three runners from the men’s cross country team put everything on the line amid the wind and hills, with one going down in the Cyclone record books for best finish, at the NJCAA Division I Cross Country Championship in Garden City, Kansas, on Nov. 10.
The conditions yielded plenty of slower times on average, but that was no match for the Cyclones, three of whom qualified to run at this national tournament.
Sophomore David Alvarez crossed the line in 80th (28:24), the best placement in the history of the Cyclone program competing in Division I. He joins Jordi Rangel (2016, 2017) as the only two Cyclones to finish in the top 100. Last year in his first taste at nationals, Alvarez finished in 158th place. Sophomores Diego Arana (154th, 29:45) and John Donovan (205th, 31:13) also ran well.
“That race was a great capstone to David’s historic season. All three men moved up throughout the race, which is always nice to see as a coach. Between mile one and the finish, Alvarez caught 57 people, Diego caught 22 and JD caught 22,” said head Coach Dimitri Dimizas. “Unfortunately for me, this was the last race for all three, but it was certainly a great way for them to end their careers here.”
This wasn’t exactly the race that Alvarez wanted, but definitely a memorable one. “I was pretty excited about the race, my last one for Moraine Valley. Usually at the start of my races I let my nerves get the best of me. I wasn’t too nervous at the start of this one. During the race I felt good, but I was more conservative at the beginning, which on a nationals’ course just about everyone is going out hard. That kind of cost me in the end because I had to make up for places,” Alvarez said. “Overall, I am glad about my race because I did place better than last year. I’m also proud that I got to race again at nationals.”
As for Dimizas, he must say goodbye to the trio and Calista Stefaniak from the women’s team who also competed at nationals. “The times were historically slow for the whole field in both races due to the strong winds and challenging course, but that’s why we look at place over time when it comes to cross country,” he said. “I think this trip was more emotional for me because four of the six qualifiers won’t be back next year, and I’ve spent more time with that group than any other I’ve coached before. We’ve gotten to know each other very well over the past two seasons, which makes me even more proud of their accomplishments but also sad that this was our last race together. I’m happy with how everyone performed and how they ended their season.”