By DANIEL GAONA
Photos by ED ADAMS
For the fifth year in a row, the Pima Community College women’s cross country team has placed in the top 10 at Nationals. This year’s ninth-place finish is the lowest head coach Greg Wenneborg has seen in that streak but it doesn’t bother him.
“We’re gratified mostly because the women were ranked 11th going and we knew that they were better than that,” Wenneborg said. “It was a good season for the ladies and we’re looking to continue to build.”
Last year’s team placed sixth. In 2008 Pima took fifth. The two years before that it finished seventh and sixth.
The No. 9 Aztecs placed second among Region 1 competition at the Nov. 13 meet in Spartanburg, N.C. Central Arizona College finished fourth as a team. Glendale Community College placed 11th.
Sophomore Priscilla Mendoza led the way for Pima, finishing 44th in 19:34 out of the 260 runners. Freshman sensation Heidi Lopez placed five spots behind Mendoza in 19:43. Co-captain sophomores Julia Dittiger and Julia Peerenboom finished 54th and 69th respectively.
Dittiger had a personal best of 19:48 in the 5,000-meter race. Peerenboom was wearing a boot on her foot the entire weekend of the meet, which was Nov. 13, because of an ankle injury but still managed at top 70 finish.
“I had tendinitis in my ankle and it was a little hard racing on it,” Peerenboom said. “I figured since I had trained and worked really hard all season that I might as well just run Nationals.”
She also said that the team chemistry was strong from the start of the season and that they were underdogs the whole year.
“I’m honestly grateful that we finished in the top 10,” Peerenboom said. “I think it was really well done by all of the runners on the team.”
Wenneborg said that the team was still dealing with injuries heading into Nationals.
“We definitely feel like the ladies were ready to go but we were fragile the last couple of weeks,” he said. “It was kind of scary going in and I thought worst-case-scenario we wouldn’t even be in the top 18.”
The team pulled through some rough patches during the season as well. Sophomore Magda Mankel was never declared eligible and sophomore Annalina Loevenguth had her season end early with a stress fracture. Wenneborg was proud of the way the team pulled through.
“Maybe, in my six years of coaching, this might have been the hardest luck we’ve had,” the coach said. “We think that we have a future national championship squad if we can just get a little more breaks going our way and I recruit just a little bit harder.”
Lopez, along with freshman Jodine Steemers and Rachel Whitford, will be back for next season. Wenneborg also said he’ll be hoping for some strong recruits.
“We’ve got three solid girls coming back who can run mid-19 5k’s for us,” he said.