The Paradise Valley Men’s Cross Country team placed 4th at the NJCAA Cross Country National Championship meet this past weekend at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course in Garden City, KS. The Pumas, who came into the meet ranked 10th nationally, claimed their 13th top-four finish in program history.
Running on a hilly course, and in cold, 20-plus mile-per-hour winds, the Pumas were determined to show that they were a team to be reckoned with. At the two-kilometer mark, the scoreboard showed them in 11th place, already having moved through much of the 36-team field. By five kilometers the Pumas had moved up to sixth, and by the end they had worked their way up to fourth.
“This team has a lot of character, and that showed today,” said Coach David Barney. “They kept their heads in the race and kept fighting until the very end of the race. For us to move up like we did was incredible. If this had been a 10K, we might have brought home the national title. That was Paradise Valley running!”
Leading the Pumas was sophomore Jason Ortega, who finished 12th overall in the field of 289 runners. Ortega finished the 8k course in 26:22 and received NJCAA All-American, Honorable Mention honors. Following Ortega were freshman Michael Barney, 28th (27:08) and sophomore Nicolas Caruso, 33rd (27:19) who received NJCAA Coaches Association All-American recognition. Next in were freshman Daniel Marquez, 42nd (27:31), freshman Daniel Avila, 43rd (27:31), freshman Joel Mendez, 45th (27:32), and freshman Cooper Wantland, 73rd (28:18).
Andrew Kibet of Hutchinson Community College won the race in a time of 25:25. Central Arizona College won the team title.
Also a highlight of the men's championship was Head Coach Dave Barney being named the NJCAA Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year.