For weeks leading up to the Ranger Classic Cross Country Invitational, Ranger College head coach stressed the importance of having the team adopt a pack mentality when they took to the trail. Five runners in a group is better than one at the top, she stressed.
On Friday, the Rangers proved their veteran head coach right.
Ranger College nailed down five of the top six spots in in the first-ever collegiate cross country meet held on the college campus and sprinted to the top of the team standings for the first time this season. The Rangers posted a perfect score of 15 in the meet and easily edged out Texas A&M-Kingsville and Angelo State University for the team crown. Texas A&M-Kingsville finished a distant second with 54 points. Angelo State was third at 78.
"I couldn't be prouder of the way they ran," said Graham. "As a team, they ran a perfect race."
The victory was Ranger College's first championship of the season. The 11th-ranked Rangers had finished third in each of their previous three meets, often running against NCAA Division I programs.
"In practices, we were working as a pack so it was nice to see us put it into a race," said sophomore Troy Wiles, who was one of six RC runners to place in the top 10.
Jahlil Howard led Ranger's assault on the top six spots. The sophomore blazed his way over the 7.9-kilometer trail. Heading into the final 100 meters of the race, he and former Baylor University star Matthew League were running shoulder-to-shoulder. League, a native of Weatherford who graduated from Baylor in 2016, managed to pull away over the final 50 meters to nab a .08-second win with a time of 25 minutes, 37.6 seconds.
Howard finished second at 25:38.4.
Ranger teammates Chris Larson, Daniel De La Cruz Flores, Wiles and Loic Rossignaud followed Howard across the finish line. Larson claimed third overall with a time of 25:42.8, while De La Cruz Flores checked in at No. 4 with a mark of 25:57.2 Wiles and Rossignaud were fourth and fifth, respectively, with times of 26:07.2 and 26:11.9.
Texas A&M-Kingsville junior Jose Ventura IV ended Ranger's run on the top spots by placing seventh, one spot ahead of Angelo State's Matthew Jones.
Gilberto Palomo added to the Rangers' success moments later. The freshman legged out a top 10 effort, finishing 10th with a time of 26:53.3.
Teammate Fernando Teran and Edward Njunguna gave Ranger eight of the top 15 spots with solid showings. A sophomore, Teran turned in a run of 26:54.6 and just finished outside the top 10, at No. 11. Njunguna was 13th at 27:26.6.
Ranger College also collected strong performances from several other runners in the race. Freshmen Laytham Magana and Luis Rios finished 18th and 19th, respectively, while Jay Nolan and Juan Luis Espinoza checked in at No. 24 and No. 27. Julian Castiblanco was 29th.
Ranger College will return to action on Oct. 27 when they compete in the Region V Championships.