The leaves are falling, the crisp wind is gustier and autumn is yielding to the lights and snow of winter. As the weather changes and we move into December, old seasons wrap up and new ones emerge. The CUNYAC fall cross country season was thrilling, encompassing all the exciting parts of sports including dramatic wins, stories of perseverance and deserving victories for the men’s and women’s CUNYAC champions, the Hunter Hawks. The Hawks 2011 fall cross country season set the standard for the winter and spring seasons and their consistency, beginning from the leaders to the freshmen, was instrumental to their success.
The Men’s and Women’s Cross Country season wrapped up with the CUNYAC Championships on November 8th, 2011. The men’s competition was dominated by Hunter, as the Hawks were able to place four of their runners in the top eight. Leading the charge was junior, Christopher Guerrero; a Townsend Harris alum, Guerrero was able to finish first in the CUNYAC Championships for a third straight year. Despite an ankle injury, Guerrero positioned himself well and won by four seconds. Impressively, a top finish next year will give him the unprecedented honor of having achieved first place in the CUNYAC championships for four consecutive years. Guerrero’s persistence, hard work and leadership led him and his team to the first place finish.
The Hawks, meanwhile, continued their reign atop the CUNYAC leaderboard with a third consecutive team championship (the Hawks tied for first in 2008). Besides Guerrero, junior Jose Miranda finished second on the senior circuit after finishing in fourth in 2010 and fifth in 2009. His dominant showing coupled with freshman Christian Rojas’s fourth place finish and freshman Justin Lee’s eighth place finish led Hunter to their championship. Lee attributed the victory to the veterans’ influence, acknowledging their leadership and work ethic: “The upperclassmen have played a really important role in having us prepare during the season through hard work and training. They pushed us from the very beginning and made us bring out the best in ourselves and that’s why we’re champions.” The Hawks, behind the city’s two-time reigning runner of the year and two outstanding freshmen, will strive for a fourth consecutive championship next season after an exceptional showing in 2011.
The Hunter Hawks women were just as impressive as the men, controlling the competition from the very beginning and cruising to victory. The Hawks, boasting one of the strongest teams in the field, with All-Stars Jacklyn Henderson, Shantel Peters, Johanna Keilwitz and Stephi-Anne Duliepre, along with runner of the year Lizzy Mahoney, steamrolled to victory. Henderson finished second overall and first on the senior college circuit and was closely followed by Mahoney in second. Peters finished third, Keilwitz fifth and Dulipre rounded out the scoring five with a seventh place finish. Mahoney, despite finishing second on the senior circuit and third overall, had one of the most memorable seasons in recent memory. After finishing last year’s race at 24:56 and 2009’s at 24:53, becoming only the third runner with a sub 25-minute time in the CUNYAC championships and the first to record multiple sub 25-minute times, she finished 2011 as runner of the week an astounding five out of six times. One of the most consistent performers in CUNYAC, Mahoney returns next year for her senior season vying for another runner of the year and team championship trophy.
The Hawks commitment and preparation led them to a well-deserved victory. Behind two amazing athletes, the Hawks were able to attain the ultimate prize in CUNYAC and have one more season with Guerrero and Mahoney that promises to be filled with great effort, persistence and success. Justin Lee looks forward to the 2012-2013 cross-country season and believes: “These two athletes and all the others have been great for the program at Hunter. They’ve set great examples for the younger athletes and have built Hunter into a regular, legitimate threat.” Their 2011-2012 season was stellar and their future, along with their program’s, seems brighter than ever. With great runners top to bottom, Hunter should only get better through dedication, development and a stronger recruiting program, as they have become the class of CUNY cross country.
Featured image from Hunter College Athletics