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South Florida State College students and employees honored the Lady Panthers cross country team for its accomplishments at a special ceremony on Nov. 18 after wrapping up its inaugural season at the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) national cross country championships on Nov. 14 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The championships were hosted by Iowa Central Community College.
“A few fast facts of historical importance: First of all, Julia Soto, Savannah Walter, Cali Gumpel, Alexis Armstead, and Grace Miller will forever be known historically as the first ever cross country team at SFSC,” said Rick Hitt, SFSC athletic director. “Along the same lines, Coach Krista Schult and Coach Cassandra Marentes will be known historically as the first women’s cross country staff ever. The families and the meets will be remembered as the first ever. The SFSC administration and trustees will historically be remembered for deciding to add women’s cross country as a sport at SFSC for the fall of 2015.”
The SFSC Lady Panthers Cross Country team returned from the National Championships on Nov. 15 as the 25th ranked team in the country. The Panther ran their way to a 25th place team finish and each team member finished in the top 170 out of a possible 330 runners.
Grace Miller set the pace for the Panthers finishing 77th overall with a time of 20:25 for the 3.1 mile run. Alexis Armstead (21:12), and Savannah Walter (21:17) finished 133rd and 140th, respectively. Cali Gumpel (21:21) finished 145th, and Julia Soto (21:37) completed the course in 163rd position.
“First and foremost, I want to say thank you to the ladies on the team,” said Krista Schult, coach, SFSC Cross Country, during the ceremony. “They have set the bar extremely high for what’s going to be expected in the years to come. There was only one minute, 12 seconds between all five runners at nationals. We had one of the smallest spreads between first place and fifth place, so that’s something to be proud of. We ran well as a team.”
Schult indicated that all five runners on the Lady Panthers cross country team will return for competition next fall, and SFSC will add five more runners, doubling the size of the team.
“There are three or four other colleges in the Florida College System that are in the process of forming women’s cross country teams, so you are pacesetters in all aspects of that word,” said Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, SFSC president. “Thank you for bringing recognition to SFSC. Thank you for leading with quality. We treasure you as we do all students.”
The Lady Panthers held its first home meet on Oct. 3, 2015.