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Cross Country: Griego Takes 41st at NAIA Championship

Westmont senior cheered on by Warriors teammates. Azusa Pacific takes national title.

Lisa Griego, Westmont’s lone representative at the 2008 NAIA Women’s Cross Country National Championship, finished in 41st place out of a field of 336 qualifiers Saturday. The senior from Mountain View completed the Kenosha, Wis., course in 18:22.

Golden State Athletic Conference rival Azusa Pacific placed three runners in the top 10 to capture the overall title.

It wasn’t the experience that Griego had expected in her final year of competition. Last year, she competed as part of the Westmont team, but neither the men’s nor women’s teams qualified for this year’s championship race at the Wayne E. Dannehl Cross Country Course, leaving the teaching credential student as the only Warrior to take a place on the starting line.

Also missing from the experience was Westmont head coach Russell Smelley, whose home was one of 15 faculty houses destroyed in last week’s Tea Fire. Griego was accompanied to the race by assistant coach Lindsey Connolly and teammates Daniel Lew and Chrissa Trudelle.

“It was definitely tough circumstances,” Griego acknowledged. “After the fire my perspective changed. I was fighting emotion and the race just didn’t seem important. But then my thoughts changed again and I wanted to do well for Westmont and be a good representative.”

Griego was encouraged when three additional teammates showed up at the starting line — Mycah Bain, Charlie Detmar and Kirsten Wiersma. Bain and Wiersma traveled to the championship event from their homes in Minnesota while Detmar made his way from Michigan. Because of the fire’s impact on the Westmont campus, classes have been suspended until Dec. 1.

“It was very encouraging to have a handful of people cheering,” noted a grateful Griego. “They spread out around the course and it was very helpful.”

Although missing her goal of a top-30 finish and, therefore, an All-American title, Griego was pleased with her race.

“Last year, I got stuck toward the back at the beginning of the race,” she recalled. “This year I got into a better position and was around 70 to 80th after the first mile. Because of the terrain, the first mile is slower than I am used to.

“After the first mile, I was never passed,” she continued, “and I started working my way up the pack. With about a half-mile to go, I was in about 45th place. When I was in position to see the finish line, I saw that the 30th runner was just crossing so I new I would not make All-American. But I kept on pushing. I saw Kristen Schmidt from Biola and was able to pass her, which I was happy about because I have never beaten her before.”

Ron Smith is Westmont’s sports information director.

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