With two of their regular-season heroes ailing, the New Mexico Highlands cross country teams found themselves on the outside of the nationals picture on Saturday as the NCAA Division II South Central Regional played out in Denver.
The Highlands men finished ninth with 220 team points behind champion Adams State (26), Western State (58), Colorado School of Mines (75), Colorado-Colorado Springs (118), Eastern New Mexico (174), Fort Lewis (178), West Texas A&M (211) and Metro State (216).
Only the top six men’s teams and top five women’s teams in the region advance to nationals.
Ismael Samano finished the 10-kilometer men’s course 18th in 32:57 to pace NMHU. Stephen Carbajal (39th, 34:22), David Niragira (48th, 34:37), Emile Ndagajimana (54th, 35:02) and Jesus Mendoza (61st, 35:11) were the Cowboys’ other varsity scorers. Justin Lueras (71st, 35:35) and Henrique Chavez (103rd, 36:37) rounded out the NMHU finishes. Chavez had led the men early in the season but suffered through shin-splint injury as it wound down.
On the women’s side, the Cowgirl harriers finished 14th in a 6K race won by Adams State.
Ashley Lovato (62nd, 24:37), Marlinda Pecos (69th, 24:44), Brianna Cathcart (75th, 24:58), Ivana Aragon (88th, 25:17), Stephanie Gomez (89th, 25:22), Ashley Branch (96th, 25:36) and early leader Tayler Hendren (103rd, 25:42) represented NMHU.