It was a successful 2019 campaign for Men's Cross Country, capped off with an appearance at the NJCAA Division I National Championships in Albuquerque, N.M.
The roster featured several new faces, including five freshman, blended with a solid combination of experienced sophomore leadership from returners David Tullock, Derek Gallardo and transfer Riley Higginbotham.
The season began at the Mountaintop Invitational on the campus of Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga., where Diego Guzman won the 5k in his collegiate debut, while Gallardo and Erik Martinez followed close behind, placing third and fourth, respectively. The team placed second overall.
The Cougars won their first meet of the season at the Maryville Invitational at Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn. on Sept. 27 behind Martinez's second place finish in the 8k, followed by Gallardo and Guzman's fourth and fifth place respective finishes.
Cleveland State also competed in the inaugural Region VII Championship meet in a contest with Walters State. They won the meet, sweeping the top four places, and also securing five out of the six top individual finishes in the meet. Gallardo was named Region VII MVP after winning the Championship with an 8k time of 26:59.
For the first time since 2017, the Cougars sent runners to the National Championship. This season was also the first time in program history that Cleveland State fielded a full team in the event. Gallardo was the top finisher for the team, finishing 47th overall, while Guzman, Martinez, Higginbotham and Tullock also ran strong times in New Mexico. The Cougars placed 22nd overall out of 45 total teams competing.
The Cougars also earned national recognition from the Coaches' Poll throughout the season. They found themselves ranked as high as 14th in the country in the poll released on Sept. 18.
Multiple program records were also reset for Cleveland State. Guzman set the 5k mark at the Mountaintop Invitational with a time of 16:42.50. Gallardo set two marks, setting the 7k record at the UTC Twilight Meet Invitational with a mark of 22:16.33 and the 8k record at the National Championship with a time of 26:12.00.
"I am so proud of every member of this team and how their hard work all year paid off in a huge way in various meets throughout the season," said interim head coach Lindsey Beck. "It was awesome to see five of these guys earn the chance to compete at nationals and to see them place in the top half of the field: it was well-deserved! It was an exciting season and our sophomores will definitely be missed next season."
Stay tuned to cscougars.com for updates on the 2020 Men's Cross Country season.
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