CLAREMONT — University of Antelope Valley men’s cross country All-American Santiago Hardy won his third straight meet at the Pomona-Pitzer XC Invite 8K (4.97 miles) on Saturday.
The senior won the meet with a time of 24 minutes, 49.9 seconds, an average pace of 4:59.8 per mile. He said the race was challenging because of it was “narrow, curvy and inclined.”
It was a close race with Hardy battling Whittier College’s Benjamin White throughout the course. But Hardy kicked into high gear in the last half-mile to win the race ahead of White, who took second in 24:51.5.
“White from Whittier has been looking forward to racing against Santiago Hardy for the past four races,” said UAV Director of Athletics Gary Dickerson. “With each runner having two race wins apiece, this race did not disappoint. The two traded the lead several times. Santiago had more in the tank at the end and started ‘his kick’ with a half-mile to go to pull away for the win. I can’t wait to see Santiago race at Nationals, he’s just getting warmed up.”
Hardy raced against athletes from Cal Poly Pomona, Azusa Pacific, BIola and Cal State Los Angeles, just to name a few.
“It was an amazing win and he has so much more potential,” UAV first-year head coach Daniel Tustin said. “He showed incredible poise under pressure, but I believe that he can run 20-30 seconds faster when he gets a chance to really push hard from start to finish.”
Hardy started the season with a fourth-place finish at the Fresno Invitational on Sept. 4. He went on to win the UC Riverside 40th Annual Cross Country Invitational 8K by 16 seconds (24:41.0) on Sept. 18.
His next race was a win at the Master’s University Cross Country Invitational on Sept. 25 where he posted a time of 24:42.9, his best time of the season.
He gives credit to being a student-athlete from a lesson he received from his high school athletic director Shaun Martin.
“As a runner all I really wanted to do is train, race and eat,” Hardy said. “(Martin) was an amazing runner and told me something I would never forget, ‘You’re a student before an athlete,’ and I have always carried those words with me.”
After his first two wins of the season, Hardy was named the NAIA Runner of the Week and California Pacific Conference Runner of the Month on Sept. 29.
He gives credit to Tustin for his historic start to the season.
“Coach trains a little differently with what I am accustomed to. With his training I am able to perform out of my comfort zone, as it should be,” he said. “Before races, he walks us through the courses verbally, gives us our race plans and we go from there. He’s a tremendous coach who can relate to what it is like being a college athlete.”
UAV senior Jerry Martinez finished 117th with a run time of 29:14.9 and senior Alvara Herdia finished 121st with a time of 29:43.4.
In the women’s division, senior Shaye White finished 95th with a run time of 27:17.2 and senior Jasmine Estrada finished 109th with a time of 29:09.3.
The Pioneers are off this week, but are back on Oct. 22 for the Titan Invitational at Cal State Fullerton. It is their final meet before the Cal Pac Conference tournament, which will be held at Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 1.