2021 Lion Cross Country: A Team of Super-Talented Runners
COMMERCE – Being one of the few teams that had a relatively regular season during the 2020-21 academic year, the Texas A&M University-Commerce cross country participates in its first race of the 2021 fall season on Saturday. The Lions enter the fall season with a roster full of newcomers and only a handful of returners.
“This has been a long time coming,” said assistant cross country and track & field coach Trent Phelps. “We are a different team with a lot of new faces, so it is exciting to have all the new faces together. They have not had much time together to bond, practice, and grow. This season is going to be a good step for the program overall.”
CONFERENCE CHAMPION RETURNING
Headlining for the Lions is sophomore Nicodemus Rotich (Eldoret, Kenya), the reigning Lone Star Conference Champion, and had the second-fastest time among all runners in NCAA Division II in 2020. He finished as the runner-up in the Division II National Invitational with a time of 31:52.9 in the 10-kilometer race.
“Expectations are really high for him, and he puts that on himself. He’s a very motivated student-athlete and loves cross country. It’s his bread and butter,” said Phelps. “After a long outdoor season, we’re working on slowly moving him up for a long cross country season.”
There were no NCAA Cross Country Championships last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so this fall, Rotich has the chance to compete at the national level for the first time.
“His goal is to fight for a conference, regional and get to nationals and try to be an All-American. Falling just short in outdoor track & field, I know it is on his mind and something that is really driving him,” said Phelps.
The 2021 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships will be in St. Leo, Florida, on November 20.
YOUNG GROUP OF MEN
The Lions debut ten freshmen or transfers on the roster of 16, and Phelps expects the young runners to step in right away and score points for the Lions.
“We’re a growing team, trying to set the standard for a distance program for years to come. A lot of young guys that have really separated themselves as wanting to be scorers, being top-seven, and traveling,” said Phelps.
Some of the additions for the Lions are Jan Lanfert (Buckenhof, Germany), who, according to Phelps, is adjusting to the US style of cross country. It is a longer distance than the European style, Casey Novelo (Burleson – Trinity), who is expected to be a scorer and is adjusting well. Alex Speer (Robinson), a star for his high school at the UIL-Texas State meet.
According to Phelps, Nicholas Deutsch (Frisco) has set the top-seven goals and had excellent summer training on the college pace.
Among the returning runners, Tanner Townsend (Royse City) is one that Phelps expects to have a big season this fall.
“By the end of last year, he was our fourth best runner. He was not satisfied with where he was at. He’s taken great strides both mentally and physically, preparing for a season where he wants to take the next step and help Nicodemus, becoming a strong top-two. He’s really done that,” said Phelps. “I am excited to see his hard work translate in races.”
There are only two returners on the women’s side: Evelyn Brown (Paris) and Yenifer Martinez (Irving – Nimitz). The two are team captains and expect to show the young runners how to do things the Lion way.
“Having them back as people who know the system will help the young group adjust to the racing level, said Phelps.
On the women’s side, Hannah Keil arrives in Commerce from Korschenbroich, Germany. Like Lanfert on the men’s side, she is acclimating to the American style well.
“The international freshmen have been here for just three weeks, excited to see them progress as the season goes on because it has been a long jump for them,” said Phelps.
“Alondra is a small-town east Texas runner who has had great achievements at the high school level. She’s been continuing that progress over the summer,” said Phelps.
“Katelyn is very similar, she had a little higher level of competition in high school, but she’s not one who is not satisfied and keeps pushing her limits.”
A&M-Commerce competes in the Orville Rogers XC Opener hosted by Dallas Baptist on Saturday morning. The only home meet, the East Texas Classic, is next Friday, September 10, in Centennial Park.
Speer sets the pace for the men, Campa-Matthews top finishers for women at DBU.
GRAND PRAIRIE – In the early morning hours at Lynn Creek Park, the Texas A&M University-Commerce men’s and women’s cross country teams started their seasons in the Orville Rogers XC Opener hosted by Dallas Baptist on Saturday. The men took fifth in the seven-team field. The women edged out Texas A&M-Kingsville via a tiebreaker to finish sixth among nine teams.
Alex Speer (Robinson) was the top finisher for the Lions on the men’s side, placing seventh among 75 runners with a time of 26:04.4 in the eight-kilometer race. It was the first collegiate race for the freshman from Robinson.
On the women’s side, Alondra Campa (Kaufman) narrowly edged out teammate Katelyn Matthews (Burleson – Mansfield Legacy) for the fastest time on the team. Campa finished in 26th with 20:30.9 in the five-kilometer race, Matthews finished with a time of 20:33.0, placing 28th among 71 runners.MEN
Casey Novelo (Burleson – Trinity), Chris Navarrette (Laredo – Lyndon B. Johnson), and Chris Flores (Rocksprings) finished within 20 seconds of each other, all three placed in the top-40. Novelo finished first in the pack with a time of 27:52.09, Navarrette followed with a mark of 27:58.8, and Flores rounded out the group, clocking in a time of 28:08.0.
Among the rest of the Lions, Anthony Gonzalez (DeSoto) finished with a time of 28:32.5, Marshall Pate (Kaufman) timed 28:51.9, Nicholas Deutsch (Frisco) recorded a time of 29:01.0, and Mykel Smith (Fort Worth – North Crowley) was just behind Deutsch with a time of 29:03.0.
Dallas Baptist took the team title with a team score of 20, aided by Matthew Hahn’s pace of 25:29.2, the fastest time among all runners on Saturday morning.
Texas A&M-Kingsville and A&M-Commerce finished in a tie for sixth place with a score of 177. The Lions’ sixth runner, Ladeana Perry (New Braunfels – Christian Academy), edged out the Javelinas’ Cassandra Lozano by a margin of 22:58.9 to 25:29.1, respectively, to give the Lions the edge in the tiebreaker.
The Patriots took the women’s team title as well, with a team score of 32. Rogers State’s Jillian Skalicky won the women’s race with a time of 18:19.9.
The Lions are home next week for the East Texas Shootout on Friday. The women’s race begins at 5:30 pm, the men follow at approximately 6:05 pm. at Centennial Park.
Lions rally to upset No. 18 Mountain Lions
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Facing a ranked team on the road, the Texas A&M University-Commerce soccer team downed No. 18 Colorado-Colorado Springs by 4-3 on Sunday afternoon at Mountain Lion Stadium. An own goal by the Mountain Lions gave the Lions the win.
This match is the first win for A&M-Commerce against a ranked team since October 29, 2017, when the Lions downed No. 9 Angelo State Belles, 1-0 in San Angelo.
The four goals in a match are most in a match since the season opener this past spring against Texas-Tyler, a 4-3 overtime win for the Lions.
The Lions improved to 1-1 on the season, and the Mountain Lions are also 1-1. The two teams meet next Saturday again at the Lion Soccer Field.
With eight minutes to go in the match, A&M-Commerce had a free-kick blocked by UC-Colorado Springs. Naomi Sink (Plano – East) tried a shot attempt from outside the box. The Mountain Lions’ wall blocked the kick, but the deflected ball went into the net with the goalkeeper Alexis Walker out of position to give the Lions the lead.
In the first half, the Mountain Lions jumped out to the lead in the eighth minute on a goal from Tarah Patterson. UC-Colorado Springs crossed the ball into the penalty box for Tori Maydew, whose pass they deflected to Patterson by A&M-Commerce, but Patterson recovered to open the scoring.
A foul by the Mountain Lions awarded the Lions a free kick from the near sideline by the midfield. Cora Welch (Plano) took the free-kick and went for goal. Her kick bounced in the penalty box, went just above Walker’s reach, and tied the match.
It did not take long for UC-Colorado Springs to tie the match. The Mountain Lions received a free-kick also by the near sideline about 35 yards out. Sydney Lasater’s kick landed perfectly for Makayla Merlo from about three outside of the goal. Merlo headed in on the bottom left corner for the goal.
The span between the two goals was 41 seconds.
The Mountain Lions came out aggressive in the first half, totaling 11 shots, with three on goal, one of which was saved by Jen Peters (Allen). In the match, they had 17 shots, and Lions had ten.
Peters played all ninety minutes in goal. She made two saves and got the winning decision.
A&M-Commerce continued its success from set-pieces to tie the match early in the second half. A corner kick by Leslie Campuzano (Garland – Lakeview Central) and headed by Melissa Storey (Tyne and Wear, England) past Walker to tie the match.
Less than four minutes later, UC-Colorado Springs took a free-kick deflected by Kaitlyn Valaitis (Rowlett – Sachse) and kicked the ball upfield. The Mountain Lions tried to clear the ball by hitting it to Walker, Karalie Morrison (North Richland Hills – Colleyville Heritage) jumped in to get in the way of Walker’s kick. Morrison walked into the goal with no defender in sight to give the Lions their first season lead.
That was the first career goal for Morrison.
The see-saw affair continued in the second half when the Mountain Lions capitalized on a quick throw-in. Patterson received the pass from the throw-in and crossed it into the box to Kelsey Takahasi, who kicked it in past Peters to tie it again.
Morrison and Christina Hernandez (Denison) lead the Lions with three shots each. Patterson and Merlo had five shots each for the Mountain Lions.
The Lions are home for the next two matches next weekend at the Lion Soccer Field. A&M-Commerce hosts Fort Lewis on Thursday at 7:30 pm and UC-Colorado Springs on Saturday at 11:00 am.
Morris and Viquez named LSC Players of the Week.
RICHARDSON – Two players who had a big role in the Texas A&M University-Commerce football team’s win at No. 12 Colorado State-Pueblo have been named Lone Star Conference Players of the Week for the opening of the 2021 season. Linebacker Xavier Morris was named Defensive Player of the Week, and kicker Jake Viquez was named Special Teams Player.
Morris (Converse – Judson) was part of the defensive unit that allowed just six points and 219 total yards from scrimmage. The senior linebacker had nine total tackles to lead the Lions and caught an interception in the fourth quarter.
Responsible for all 12 points in the win over the Thunderwolves, Viquez (Rockwall) went 4-for-5 in his field goal attempts with makes of 30, 29, 40, and 52 yards. His 52-yarder tied for the second-longest field goal made in program history. He also had three punts.
After not competing in football last year, Morris and Viquez are A&M-Commerce’s first weekly honorees since Viquez won the award with teammate Miklo Smalls for the last week of the 2019 season.
It is the second career Player of the Week award for Viquez and first for Morris.