Tiger runners bring home program's first-ever national championship
With its top-five runners finishing among the top-38 placers at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I National Championships Nov. 13 in Spartanburg, S.C., the Cowley College men’s cross country team backed up its No. 1-ranking by bringing home the program’s firstever national title.
Cowley (94 team points) finished 16 points ahead of national runner- up Central Arizona Community College. While, South Plains Community College (118 team points) placed third. There were 36 teams vying for the national title.
“It’s unbelievable, you don’t see it ever happening but we were able to hold it together all year long,” said Cowley College head coach Vince DeGrado, who was named the NJCAA Division I Men’s National Coach of the Year.
Sophomore Josh Gracia capped his stellar career by earning second- team All-American honors by placing seventh in the five-mile race with a time of 24:28. Freshman Cameron Balser (25:03) was the next to cross the finish line as he placed eighth and was also named a second-team All-American.
While, Tiger freshman Brock Hime’s time of 25:47 was good enough for 15th place and honorable mention All-American recognition.
“To have three American runners in the top-15 is unheard of, especially in the international era we are in,” DeGrado said.
Cowley runners Tyson Christensen (25:58) and Shaun Koehn (26:13) placed 26th and 38th, respectively.
DeGrado credited Koehn with stepping up and running a tremendous race.
“Shaun was on a mission, he knew he was the key to us winning,” DeGrado said.
Freshmen Isaac Wilson (27:32) and Victor Others (30:58) finished 102nd and 239th and contributed to the Tigers first-ever national championship.
Central Arizona’s Lelei Henry won the men’s race with a time of 23:29.
Winning seven of the eight meets they competed at this season, and with only two of its top-seven runners being sophomores, the Tigers will be poised to defend their title in 2011.
“I will enjoy this until August and then we will make another run at a national championship,” DeGrado said.
“To do it together with the men and women’s teams on the same day is unreal,” DeGrado said. “I sold them the dream of being national champions and to see them accomplish that is pretty cool.”