Cowley College women’s XC team nabs second national title in past four years; Men seventh


From RAMA PEROO/Cowley College

Nothing was going to stop the Cowley College women’s cross country team from accomplishing their goal of being national champions, not even a flu bug that ran through the team leading up to the race. The Lady Tigers placed five runners in the Top 25 and claimed its second national championship in the past four years by winning the 2023 NJCAA Division II women’s cross-country national championship held Saturday in Huntsville, AL.

This was the second DII National Title in school history and the third overall with the team capturing the 2010 NJCAA Division I national championship. The Lady Tigers completed a historic performance, finishing the day with 66 team points. Heartland (IL) came in a close second with 71 points. Paradise Valley (AZ), Mesa (AZ), and Des Moines Area (IL) rounded out the top 5 finishers.

“Our girls had themselves a day, they were every bit of incredible,” Cowley head coach Cameron Rieth said. “If people knew of the backstory leading into this race, how six of the seven girls were battling the flu the last 10 days of the season and some barely were able to practice going into nationals. They were still not 100 percent on race day. Talking with our trainer Blake Smith the morning of the race, I told him, our girls’ team is feisty, if they are going to go down, they are going to go down swinging. As soon as that gun went off a pack of orange shot straight to front of the pack.”

Dheniffer Vaz, the lone sophomore on the team, finished eighth with a time of 18:46.50 in the 5,000-meter race and earned Second-Team All-American honors for her efforts. Kayli Myers, Leticia Belo, Brittannia Willis, and Lakota Schultz also ran amazing races and earned Coaches Association All-American honors.

“With how sick they were coming in, I honestly did not know what to expect and do not know how they pulled it off, other than just willing themselves to it. I am at a loss for words,” Rieth said. “Heartland almost reeled us in at the end, and I don’t think I would have been too upset if they did, because we really ran all out from the start. That type of effort is all you can ask for as a coach and it was amazing to see and be a part of.”

Lake Michigan College’s Olivia Ippel won the 5,000-meter race with a time of 17:56.6.

Cowley Women’s Results: Dheniffer Vaz, 18:46.50, eighth; Kayli Myers, 19:18.10, 16th; Leticia Belo, 19:19.10, 18th; Brittannia Willis, 19:30.60, 20th; Lakota Schultz, 19:43.80, 25th; Britt Hunter, 20:51.40, 82nd; Tavarie Campbell, 20:51.60, 83rd.

Top-10 women’s team scores: (1) Cowley, 66; (2) Heartland, 71; (3) Paradise Valley, 115; (4) Mesa, 125; (5) Des Moines Area CC, 162; (6) Daytona State College, 172; (7) Pasco-Hernando State College, 184; (8) Wallace State, 254; (9) Southeastern CC, 274; (10) Florida Gateway College, 292.

Tiger men’s cross country team places seventh at national meet

With four runners earning Coaches Association All-American honors at the NJCAA Division II Men’s Cross Country National Championships held Saturday in Huntsville, AL, the Tiger men placed seventh out of 38 schools.

The Tiger men were led by freshman Miquel Cruz placing 16th with a time of 25:43.40, while Nathan Pestka of Paradise Valley Community College won the 8,000-meter race with a time of 24:49.10.

“We ran solid, but we knew it was going to be packed up front,” Cowley head coach Cameron Rieth said. “I told the guys that we can run a solid race and still finish seventh, because of the depth of the teams coming in. Any of the top teams that were ranked 1-7 could win it. Since there was so many solid even leveled teams we had to get out in good positioning. We did not do that as well as we wanted. Coming through the first mile in 13th place as a team, throughout the whole race we kept progressing, but we ran out of steam and time. We never were up with the group we wanted to be in.”

Along with Cruz, Cowley’s Austin (William) Schaeffer, Mason Bickle, and Mason Blochowiak earned Coaches Association All-American honors. Bickle, Blochowiak, and Schaeffer are sophomores and ran their final race for the cross country team.

“It’s a little bit disappointing end for the fellas, but those things happen,” Rieth said. “I am really proud of our guys and it does not take away from what they accomplished this season. Especially with the whole team battling the flu the last two weeks of the season.”

Lansing Community College took home the team title, finishing five points better than second place Heartland Community College.

Cowley Men’s Results: Miquel Cruz, 25:43.40, 16th; Austin Schaeffer, 26:03.30, 30th; Mason Bickle, 26:11.80, 32nd; Mason Blochowiak, 26:25.40, 35th; Randy Rojas-Mendez, 26:48.10, 51st; Kevin Rivas-Guillen, 27:00.70, 56th; Deshawn Douglas, 27:43.10, 98th.

Top-10 men’s team scores: (1) Lansing, 73; (2) Heartland, 78; (3) Daytona State College, 102; (4) Paradise Valley, 105; (5) Wallace State, 114; (6) Mesa, 140; (7) Cowley, 147; (8) Bismarck State, 235; (9) Allen, 266; (10) Coconino, 273.