For the fourth time in his collegiate career, Westmont’s Zola Sokhela has been honored with an annual award by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. After being honored three times previously by the USTFCCCA due to his accomplishments on the track, this time around, Sokhela has been honored for his work in cross country.
On Wednesday, the USTFCCCA announced that Sokhela was named the 2022 NAIA Cross Country West Region Men’s Athlete of the Year.
The honor for Sokhela comes less than a week after the greatest cross country race of his career, one saw him dethrone the reigning Golden State Athletic Conference individual champion. At the GSAC Championships in Rocklin on November 5, Sokhela ran a career-best time of 23:45.5 in the 8K, and in doing so, became the new individual GSAC Champion.
“Zola demonstrated his full capabilities, by making the choice to compete,” said Westmont head coach Russell Smelley. “He was rewarded not only with this win, but with a lot more confidence and relaxation. His accomplishments have been well-earned.”
In five regular season races, Sokhela finished in the top-10 each time, including three races where he finished in the top-five. After winning the individual GSAC Championship, Sokhela and the rest of the ninth-ranked Warriors will compete in Tallahassee, Florida on November 18 at the NAIA National Championships.
“It’s exciting going into Tallahassee, because the team is responding to his lead,” added Smelley. “The entire team has been stepping up to their capabilities. It could be a very fun trip for us.”
Sokhela, who earned All-American status at the Cross Country National Championships in 2021, will be looking to earn his 13th NAIA All-American honor since beginning competition in spring of 2021.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.