Westmont Men’s and Women’s Cross Country capped off their season on Friday morning after competing in the NAIA National Championships in Tallahassee, Florida. The men ran first and ended the day in 17th place out of 34 schools, while the women followed up with a 15th place finish out of 36.
The individual highlight of the day for Westmont was in the men’s race, when Zola Sokhela earned his 13th career NAIA All-American honor, after finishing 36th overall with a time of 24:53.6.
“It was a bit of a subdued race, but he did what he needed to do to earn the accomplishment,” reflected Westmont head coach Russell Smelley. “Zola told us he didn’t feel great today and it wasn’t his best race of the season, but that happens sometimes. Still, he did what he needed to do.”
Coming in after Sokhela was senior Danny Rubin, who finished the race in 56th place with a mark of 25:07.7. The next Warrior to finish was Adam King with a time of 25:52.7, in 142nd, and Jack Vanden Heuvel with a time of 26:18.5, in 191st.
Rounding out Westmont’s top-five was senior Garrett Miller, who came in 198th with a time of 26:21.9.
“A good team made it to nationals and did alright,” summed up Smelley. “They didn’t do as well as they could, but that happens, and it’s not a failure either. You can’t always run your best race.”
“Danny and Jack had a strong and assertive race,” added the All-American Sokhela, “but we know there’s room for improvement.”
On the women’s side, sophomore Landon Torres came across first for Westmont, finishing the race in 82nd place with a season-best time of 18:42.8. Kari Anema was next to finish with a time of 18:50.8, in 97th, followed by Annie West in 104th place, with a time of 18:56.8.
Captain Madden Hundley was Westmont’s fourth finisher, posting a time of 19:01.2 in 113th place, while Anneline Breytenbach was Westmont’s fifth, posting a time of 19:25.1 in 158th.
“They ran their team-spread of 43 seconds, which is really nice,” noted Smelley. “Landon got after it today, chasing the All-American spot. She had a really fine two, to two and a half miles before fading, but still ran her best time of the season.
“The rest of the team kept coming behind her and ran hard.”
“Westmont’s women ran a hard race today,” echoed Captain Hundley. “The race was competitive and fast, and we had a few who battled to be in the top-40, but just couldn’t quite make it. It was still a great experience. This team is tight, and I’m so grateful for each of them!”
The Warriors will return home to Santa Barbara and rest up, before beginning preparation for the NAIA Indoor Track and Field season, which will begin at the end of January.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.