UHH cross country women running strong through tough times
Nadia Ramirez led an inexperienced University of Hawaii Hilo cross country team to a sixth place finish on the Vulcan home course at the Naniloa Volcanoes Golf Club on Saturday.
Ramirez, a true freshman out of Hilo High, finished the 3.1 mile race 23rd overall in a time of 21:01.
Winning the women’s race was Bingham Young Hawaii’s Lacey Lynn Krout in 18:21.
“Today was really hot, but the course itself is very fast,” Ramirez said. “I could have run better, but I was pleased with my overall performance.”
Following her first race of the season Ramirez has taken over as the number one Vulcan runner, despite her collegiate inexperience.
“Running at this level is ten times more challenging both mentally and physically then high school,” Ramirez said. “My coach, Jaime Guerpo, keeps me motivated and gives so much to this team that we need to give as much as we can back to him.”
BYUH’s Krout and teammate Katie Buxton ran away from the field of 38 women but it was the team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks that bunched their five runners to win team scoring honors.
“I loved this course as it is fast and soft,” a barefooted Krout said after the race. “Katie and I ran the whole way barefooted as it is better for our form as it keeps our feet cool and it feels really good.”
Krout took 25 seconds off her best time this season on the cushioned golf course grass and gave most of the credit for her success to her teammate, Buxton, for pushing her throughout the season.
“Katie and I push each other and earlier in the season she won two Pac West meets,” Krout said.
Vulcan Coach Jaime Guerpo was supposed to have lost both his men’s and women’s programs this season due to the UHH athletic budget crisis but managed to find the resources, through a community effort, to save the women’s program. The monies raised were only enough to pay for travel cost as the Vulcan cross country program offers no scholarships.
“We were only able to find enough cash to save the women’s program,” Guerpo said. “As a result we have five girls running for us and all of them have never run at the collegiate level.”
In cross country it takes five runners to score, but most college teams carry 7 harriers on the roster to protect themselves against injury.
“There’s a lot of pressure on me to do my best,” Vulcan runner Justin Wood said.
Wood, a 2008 graduate of Hawaii Prep, has been UHH’s number 5 runner throughout the season and finished 36 out of 38 runners on Saturday.
“I never ran cross country in high school as I was a hurdler on the track team,” Wood said. “I have learned to love this sport and I am always trying to improve.”
Wood finished in 25:04, but has set her season goal at running a 23:30 by season’s end.
“Coach Jaime is very motivating and he hasn’t quit on me and I’m not going to quit on him,” Wood said. “Coach motivates me to keep wanting to get better.”
In 31st place was UHH’s number three runner, Nikka Takane, with a time 22:02.
Takane, an academic senior for the Vulcan’s, is a 2008 graduate of Waiakea where she ran on the Warrior cross country team.
“This was a great opportunity for me to be a part of a college team,” Takane said. “All five of us need to race or we can’t score as a team which puts pressure on all us to do it for Coach Jaime and the team.”
UHH’s Jordan Bledsoe, 26th in 21:33 and Stephanie Adams, 33rd in 23:54, rounded out the Vulcan five.
Guerpo’s, in his 13th season at the helm, has a bare bones budget that doesn’t provide money for scholarships and the money that he did raise is barely enough to fund a meager travel budget.
“I thought all our girls did well today,” Guerpo said. “Despite finishing in last place they all tried their best and worked hard and I am pleased with how they ran.”
Guerpo is without a men’s team this season, but several of his former team members showed up to help with the two races and one of them, Paul Mauser, ran the men’s 4 miler as an unattached runner.
“This is my senior year and my last hurrah,” Mauser said. “I had to run this race before graduating and returning to Oregon.”
Mauser finished in an unofficial time of 27:30 with BYUH winner, Spencer Deavila taking top honors.
“I liked this course as it is a solid grass with some shady spots popping up when I really needed it,” Deavila said.
Deavila reached the one mile mark in 4:45 and wasn’t seriously challenged for most of the race winning in a time of 2041.
Deavila sat out last year with an injury while winning the UHH Invitational two years ago when the event started and finished on the Vulcan campus.
The BYUH men’s team won the team scoring.
The PacWest concludes their regular home season with their finale at Chaminade on October 22 before heading to the conference championships on the 29th in Phoenix, Arizona.
“No matter what happens at the conference championships this has been one of the most gratifying seasons due to the circumstances and the way things played out,” Guerpo said.
Following the conclusion of the season Coach Guerpo will be trying to raise the necessary funds to continue the women’s program.
“With all that I have to do during the season it was too difficult to work on fundraising for next year,” Guerpo said. “I am committed to keeping this program going and if we can double the community funding we will try to bring back the men’s program.”
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