Leah Gaytan is helping lead the way for Texas Wesleyan’s women’s cross country team push for a national title.
Gaytan, a junior who transferred from Bakersfield College, has won three Sooner Athletic Conference Runner of the Week awards and the team is now ranked 22nd in the NAIA, according to ramsports.net.
But she says her focus is more on the team.
“It’s really about the team and not so much about personal goals,” said Gaytan. “If I can get faster than yeah, that’s great, but I’d rather see us all at nationals instead of just one of us.”
If the women’s cross country team continues to perform the way it currently is, Gaytan might just get her wish. The team has finished in the top three teams in five of the six meets they’ve had so far, according to ramsports.net.
“We want it. We want that respect and we want to come out of nowhere,” she said. “We want people to put faces to our names.”
Gaytan said that while transferring was difficult, the team and coach Natnael Amare has helped her adapt.
“The girls, the team and coach always tell us to trust our training,” she said. “I believe [Amare] is giving us what we need.”
She said her personal record of 18 minutes and 25 seconds in Oklahoma City in October is one of her favorite memories.
“When I ran my personal record, it was definitely one of my high points,” she said.
Maria Galarza, a freshman education major, believes that Gaytan’s success was only a matter of time.
“In the beginning she hold back a lot and I didn’t think she knew what she was capable of,” she said. “But after the first race she really picked it up.”
Gaytan believes Amare has played a big role in the team’s level of confidence in themselves.
“Coach is always telling us to trust our training and not to think about it too much,” she said. “I just feel like he knows what to do and how to get us in the shape we need to win.”
Amare believes that team is coming along perfectly and he is proud of that.
“They understand what it takes to be successful as a team,” he said. “They are finally getting the respect they deserve but they aren’t happy yet.”
And the team’s strongest point this season, according to Gaytan, came during the Iowa meet.
“We all really came together and our fourth and fifth girl really stepped it up,” she said. “It was really great.”