By Ashley Neckel, Dec. 7, 2021

The men’s cross-country team ran past the finish line in 70-degree weather and 76% humidity at the NCAA Division II Championships in Saint Leo, Florida on Nov. 20. Though the 10K race was comprised of two four-kilometer laps and one two-kilometer lap on elevated terrain, the Broncos placed 30th out of 34 teams. 

Sophomore runner Gideon Pichardo, who placed 175th out of 257 and third out of the Broncos, attributes the team’s faulty performance to the extreme humidity, excessive heat, and unfamiliar terrain. 

“I had never seen so many people slip and fall during a race or just flat out see them off to the side having dropped out,” said Pichardo. “It was definitely a course we really haven’t ran in California. It was a lot different than what we faced this year so far and it was mainly just a lot of mental grind for all of our athletes.” 

Despite the blistering heat that led 17 runners from competing universities to drop out, these conditions did not deter the Broncos’ spirit. 

“We went through the same problems during the race, but I think we all held ourselves together just knowing we were going through it all together. Seeing friendly uniforms was what kept us going in the hard parts,” said Pichardo. 

The CPP runners maintain a steady focus as they complete the course. (Courtesy of CPP Athletics Department)

According to Head Coach Chris Bradford, the inclement weather posed obstacles for the runners he had not previously encountered but attempted to prepare them for.

“The conditions were really tough. Tough course, heat, humidity and it showed,” said Bradford. “I think a lot of people ended up in the hospital; there were ambulance rides for quite a few.”

Nevertheless, the Broncos utilized techniques they learned in practice to push through. 

Freshman runner Leandro Candray, who placed 106th overall and placed first amongst the Broncos, attributes his performance to knowledge from previous practices and techniques such as working alongside momentum and keeping his arms tucked to the sides while running. 

“I went with what coach told me; I trusted his word on techniques. It definitely helped give me some confidence like, okay so what I’m doing is working; it’s helping,” said Candray. “On the downhills, I was told to just bring your arms down because your feet only go as fast as your arms swing. That was probably the main thing too that I kept in mind during the race.” 

With a history of successfully competing at the national level, the Broncos refuse to allow this season to end that streak.

“This is my fifth year; we cancelled obviously last year and we didn’t have a championship, so this is our third out of four seasons we’ve taken the men to national championships since I’ve been here,” said Bradford. “We’re a pretty regular team at the national championships. it’s definitely an expectation for our program to race at the national championships.” 

Although the Broncos did not achieve the goal they set out for, Bradford still recognizes the immense efforts put forth by the team and the progress it has made this season. 

“I don’t think today was our best day, honestly, but we did really well to get here,” Bradford added. “With such a young team I was really proud of how they performed throughout the season and to give them a chance to run at the national championships, but we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that the next time we’re here we’re a much more competitive team.” Bradford added.

Featured image courtesy of Greg Siller

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