VANCOUVER, Wash. — A successful cross country season for the Westmont Warriors came to a close on Friday, after both the Men’s and Women’s teams competed in the NAIA Cross Country National Championships. For Westmont, it was the first time since 2016 that both teams competed during the final race.
On the women’s side, the team finished 17th overall, with Anneline Breytenbach leading the way, while the men finished 23rd, with Zola Sokhela at the head of their pack.
During the women’s race, Milligan freshman Alyssa Bearzi won the national championship with a time of 18:14.9. Breytenbach, a sophomore, earned NAIA All-American honors soon after, when she finished the race in 18:50.4, good for a 27th place finish.
The first Warrior to finish behind Breytenbach was freshman Kari Anema, who capped off a stellar freshman year with a 74th place finish and a time of 19:24.9. The remainder of Westmont’s top-five came in during the following minute. Freshman Abigail Hundley completed the race in 20:03.5, freshman Callie Guthrie followed with a time of 20:20.8, and freshman Landon Torres rounded things out with a time of 20:25.4.
“The women’s team ran a steady race,” said Coach Lindsey Connolly. “Anneline was tough and persistent en route to earning All-American honors. Kari finished in the top-third of the field, which is a solid performance for a first-year at nationals.
“The rest of the women’s team ran in a tight back to earn a 17th place finish.”
For Breytenbach, she was one of two Warriors who qualified for the NAIA National Championships a season ago. After finishing with a time of 19:15.17 last season, Breytenbach trimmed nearly 25 seconds off to claim her first career All-American honor.
On the men’s side of things, Oklahoma City freshman Zouhair Talbi won the race with a time of 24:43.1. For Sokhela, the first Warrior to cross the finish line, the freshman just beat the buzzer to earn All-American honors. Sokhela was the 40th and final competitor to earn All-American honors after completing the race in 25:54.4.
For Sokhela, in just two semesters at Westmont, this is now his fourth NAIA All-American honor after receiving a trio of honors from Outdoor Track & Field last season.
“Zola earning All-American status is a tribute to his speed at the finish,” said Westmont head coach Russell Smelley. “He finished his race with an incredible kick.”
Junior Garrett Miller narrowly missed out on All-American honors after he finished in 44th place with a time of 26:00.44. The next Warrior to finish was freshman Andres Leon, who completed the race in 27:15.8. Danny Rubin finished with a time of 27:30.4, while Adam King rounded out the team’s top-five with a time of 28:19.1.
“Garrett Miller ran a fantastic race,” noted Smelley. “It was his first national championship experience and he was not intimidated by the competition. Rather, he ran up to the competition. First year Andres Leon ran like a veteran, leaning into the competition for his best race of the season. Overall, a 23rd place finish was representative of their 19th-placed ranking.”
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.