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Cross country Cyclones fight to go to championship

The cross country team competed in a five kilometer race on Oct. 12 to go to the NAIA championships in Vancouver, Washington. (Kurt Loeffler)

As gruesome as it sounds, cross country runners consider five kilometers (a little over three miles) a sprint. Add in the promise of the speediest runner going to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championships and there are going to be some fast runners, along with a couple stragglers and a few injured.

With this championship-bound mentality, Mills College hosted the California-Pacific Conferences race on Friday, Oct. 12. Other local schools competed in the event along with Holy Names University, Bethany University, Simpson University, Pacific Union College and William Jessup University. Men from the visiting schools competed in an eight kilometer race.

The first few finishers ran straight past the finish line, fighting against momentum to come to a stop. The fastest runner Agnes Silvestro was from Holy Names University, with a finishing time of 19:52 and a calculated 6:24 per mile pace.

Angie Sandoval, a graduate student working towards her masters in business administration, was the first Mills student to cross the finish line and came in sixth overall. Sandoval’s time was 21:40 with an a calculated 6:59 per mile pace.

Sandoval, will now compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate championships in Vancouver, Washington. Kim Chew, senior and cross country captain, will also participate in the championships thanks to coming in seventh place.

Although Sandoval was more accustomed to the specific Mills hills than visiting runners, she was still hurting during the circuitous route around campus.

“I was in so much pain,” Sandoval said. “At one point I felt a sharp pain and I thought, ‘oh crap, I still have two more miles.”

Still, Sandoval pushed through the aches, refusing to slow down until after the finish line.

“I was just trying to focus on the race and the person ahead of me instead of the pain,” Sandoval said.

Some runners weren’t as fortunate to cross the finish line, however. One racer from Bethany University collapsed mere meters before completing the race, falling to the ground and attempting to pick herself up continuously. A few people stepped in to carry her across the finish line, where she was disqualified from the race.

Still more students gathered just a past a dark gray Chevy Tahoe, gasping for air and wandering into a ditch near eucalyptus trees beyond Richards parking lot. It was clear that racing five kilometers is no cake walk.

But with running, the pain can last a lot longer than the actual race. Nearly a week after the event, Sandoval still felt pain in her left upper leg. It turned out that Sandoval had injured her hip flexr.

Sandoval has had to reduce her workouts since the 5k race, making sure she can compete in the upcoming championships.

“I’m not allowed to run any fast things right now,” Sandoval said. “I’m just trying to maintain fitness.”

She went to get an ultrasound treatment from trainer Natalie Spangler for the aching area on Nov. 11. Spangler applied a clear gel to Sandoval’s leg, where she used a wand to gently rub it in.

“It increases blood flow and promotes healing,” Spangler said.

Spangler’s role after events such as the five kilometer race is to make sure the athletes are cautious with their injuries to make sure existing aches and pains aren’t exacerbated.

During the races, however, Spangler is present and on call in case the runners collapse or injure themselves at any time.

“A lot of what I do during the race is emergency medicine,” Spangler said. “There’s really no way to tell why they went down; I just have to go treat them.”

In addition, Spangler advises the runners to eat properly before and after races, recommending complex carbohydrates such as bagels beforehand and protein after.

Still, Spangler knew the runners were in for a bit of struggle with the five kilometer course.

“When you’re racing it,” Spangler said ” you’re pushing yourself a little more.”