Jessica Thomas-Billot found the perfect way to cap her first season with the Ranger College Lady Rangers' cross country team. She turned in the best performance by a Ranger College runner in a decade and helped the RC women crack the top 20 in the final team standings at the 2018 NJCAA National Cross Country Championships.
"Jessica ran a great race and Ezrie (Gates) had the race of her college career. Our team, as a whole, did really well," said Ranger College head coach Kathy Graham. "We were unranked going into the meet, but the entire team did well and we finished 18th."
Thomas-Billot, a freshman from Castlenaudary, France, proved herself one of the top young runners in the country with an impressive effort in the 5-kilometer race, which was held on Nov. 10 at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course in Garden City, Kansas. By finishing among the leaders in the race, she earned All-American honors, becoming the first RC female runner to earn the honor since at least 2008.
Backed by Thomas-Billot's run, the Ranger College women's team finished 18th in the 36-team field.
Thomas-Billot posted the fastest time by an RC runner, finishing 36th overall with a time of 20 minutes, 35.9 seconds.
Catherine Lopez and Gates also legged out top 100 finishes. Competing in a field that featured nearly 300 of the top runners in the country, Lopez sprinted to a 77th-place finish with a mark of 21:24.7. Gates checked in at No. 98 at 21:49.3.
"They both ran great races and really made a huge difference for our team. This race wasn't about fast times as there was a 28 mile per hour wind and even stronger gusts," said Graham. "This was about being tough, which we were."
The Lady Rangers also picked up solid showings from sophomore Alexandra Luna and freshmen Yenifer Martinez and Alexandra Evans. Luna finished 155th with a time of 22:31.1. Martinez was 186th at 22:58.9, while Evans checked in at No. 205 with a run of 22:27.2
Region V runners dominated the top of the individual standings. El Paso Community College freshman Everlyn Kemboi grabbed the national title with a run of 18:17.1 She edged out Region V rival Gladys Jemalyo, a freshman from South Plains, for the top spot.