CAC womens cross country team

Members of the Central Arizona College women’s cross country team appear on Oct. 16 at the Highlander Invitational at Riverside, Calif.

RICHMOND, Va. — Taking eighth place at nationals would be a delight for many cross country teams. Not so for Central Arizona College.

Although the Vaqueros and the Vaqueras both finished eighth in Saturday’s Division I NJCAA Championships, coach Jon Harmon was hoping they would make a much bigger splash.

“We had some individual performances that were good, but team-wise we fell short of expectations,” he said. “We go in thinking we can win it. That’s the mentality we’ve always had. It’s a letdown and it’s disappointing when we don’t win it.”

The CAC men had placed no lower than fourth in its previous 10 trips to nationals and captured four titles (2011, 2012, 2016 and 2018) during that stretch. The Vaqueros went into the meet ranked No. 10.

Raphael Kitur was Central’s top placer in the 8-kilometer race, taking 19th with a time of 25 minutes, 7.7 seconds. Christian Franklin was 23rd in 25:24.4.

“They’ve been our top two all year and they remained consistent,” Harmon said.

Kitur was battling for a spot in the top 10 late in the race, but then “he had a stomach issue that forced him to fall back,” Harmon said.

In a race dominated by foreigners, Franklin was the fourth American to cross the line.

“Most of the teams in the top 10 had two or three foreigners,” Harmon said.

Kitur, from Kenya, is the Vaqueros’ lone non-American runner.

The other scoring runners for the Vaqueros were Benjamin Morfin (42nd overall in 26:17.2), Alazar Getahun (57th in 26:46.4) and Davin Soto of Casa Grande Union High School (80th in 27:20.0).

Also competing for CAC were Salat Ibrahim (96th in 27:32.7) and James Fincher (105th in 27:45.8).

CAC scored 208 points. Iowa Central was first with 67, followed by Iowa Western (127) and Colby, Kansas (140). There were 26 teams and 197 runners in the meet.

The Vaqueras, ranked No. 5 going in, were led by Makena Thornton, who covered the 5K distance in 19:13.1 to take 20th. Lisbet Porras of CG Union was 28th in 19:31.1.

“Those two ran real well,” Harmon said. “The others did not have their best race. Not having someone finish in the top 15 hurt our chances to finish on the podium (top three).”

Normal No. 1 runner Ariz Duarte was 38th in 19:42.2, Anette Carrasco Cota was 44th in 20:00.0 and normal No. 2 runner Beatrice Keditukei was 55th in 20:19.3. Bella Gallo took 60th in 20:27.7 and Jaedyn Brown was 72nd in 20:51.5.

The CAC women scored 182 points. Southern Idaho was first with 60, followed by Cloud County, Kansas, with 128 and El Paso, Texas, with 139. There were 23 teams and 157 runners in the meet.

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