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Cross country advances to nationals

The Mills College cross country team proved that with dedication, it really is possible to reach one’s goals.

The team won the California Pacific (Cal Pac) Conference Nov. 6 just three years after coming in last place at the meet. Its performance earned them a spot at this year’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Nationals, which will take place Nov. 21 in Vancouver, Wash.

Nine of the 14 cross country team members will be attending the trip. Seven athletes will compete while the other two athletes act as substitutes.

At the meet, the Cyclones swept the board. “We took home the conference title, the first place individual finish, the Coach of the Year award and the distinction of our top five scoring runners finishing in the top 15,” said Laura Davis, head cross country coach.

Braving the elements on the Simpson University course, runners raced through the rain and mud on a narrow and windy trail broken up by streams. Though the track proved to be a slow course for runners due to these conditions, Mills held strong with nationals in mind.

“I feel privileged to be on this team,” said senior Angie Sandoval, a co-captain. “I’ve learned so much about this sport—not just from my coach, but from my teammates and their passion for running. When we decide to do something, there’s no stopping us.”

According to Davis, at mile one Sandoval and fellow senior Lupe Cazares, plus junior Kim Chew, came through at 5:55 in the top three spots of the race. By the end of the 3.1-mile course, they placed first, fourth, and sixth, respectively, and finished less than a minute apart.

Cazares won the race with a time of 21:31, 18 seconds ahead of the runner behind her.

“I have been waiting patiently for our team to go to nationals,” said Cazares. “Now that we have achieved it I feel extremely proud. I’m happy I got to see it happen.”

First-year Rachel Jensen, who was battling a cold, was disappointed with her race, placing 7 out of 48. But she was still pleased with the day’s outcome. “My teammates were still proud of me. It reminded me of how strong our bonds have become. We are a family. Everybody had worked for this win – whether or not they scored,” she said.

Chew agreed. “Any sports team can teach you to set goals, increase your expectations and challenge yourself,” said Chew. “But what’s different about Mills CC is that our strength comes from how well we support each other both in life and in running.”