Imagine a large group of women wearing uniforms of gold and blue, representing the Mills College Cross Country team. They are all running in unison, as a group; all breathing together, all of their feet pattering a conversation of encouragement to each other. Running with the intent to get the least amount of points awarded to their team, they run as ‘Strong Women, Proud Women, All Women, Mills’ Women.’
Doubling in numbers from last year, there are 22 women who make up this year’s cross country team. Out of six races this season, the team has taken 4th place overall in their Portland Meet, 3rd at the Mills Invitational, and first at the Pacific Union College (PUC) Invitational on October 3rd.
Lupe Cazares, a junior and a co-captain of the team, led Cyclones recently to place first for the second year in a row at the PUC Invitational. The decorated athlete was also awarded the CAL Pac Athlete of the Month in September for the third season in a row. The CAL Pac award is a divisional sport award. All coaches in each division come together each month and nominates their athlete. These same coaches come to a consensus and choose one athlete to be given the CAL Pac award. Coaches choose the recipient based on the athlete’s performances at games and on improvements during the season. Men and women alike, as long as they are in the same division, can be nominated for the CAL Pac award.
“When you finish the race and realize you got through the exercise, you just think how strong women are. I just think about being a strong woman. It’s not even about the competition, but about being strong,” said Lupe Cazares, whose goal is to be strong enough to run a marathon before she leaves Mills College.
For this fierce team, the CAL Pac Championships on November 7th will be the most competitive meet yet. If the Mills cross country team qualifies at Championships for nationals, their season will continue; if not, the season is over. The nationals this year will be hosted at UW Parkside in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“We should have at least a few get into nationals. This year’s team is the best team I have had since I came to Mills in both their times, and in their dedication to their teammates and to the sport. They are a solid group of women,” said Laura Davis, the cross country coach.
For Themy-Jo Adachi, the director of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation, a placing in the Nationals for the team would mean an increase in funding for the cross country program Funding contributes to travel expenses and equipment.
“If the team qualifies for the NCAA champs, the funding will increase. Laura has done great with recruiting; that shows passion and commitment through her growth in her team’s size,” said Adachi.
The top ten women with the fastest times:
Lupe Cazares: 19:26
Angie Sandoval: 20:34
Lilly Page: 23:01
Mariah Olivera: 21:57
Jules Cooch: 22:39
Jillian Harris: 23:08
Perla Cantu: 23:54
Hanako Hjersman: 23:50
Elena Adler: 23:23
Rosa Page: 24:23