‘TO wear a jersey with the Adams State name across your chest is a privilege, but to live up to the name has to come from deep within,” wrote Brianna Robles in her story A team seeks its own success. “You have to learn to be tough and learn to run with your heart.”
That’s exactly what Robles, a senior from Plainview, Texas, did on Saturday in winning the RMAC women’s title with a time of 21:18.4 over 6 kilometers. Her victory paced the Adams State women to the RMAC title, sweet redemption for Robles and her teammates after a disappointing finish a year ago.
“I’m feeling very excited for the future. I had a goal in mind going into this race and I think as a team we conquered that,” Robles told The Citizen in a text message after the race. “I wasn’t nervous but confident as I kept telling myself throughout the race that I got this and all my training has led up to moments like these.”
Now it’s on to the NCAA D2 Championships in Tampa, Fla. on Nov. 20. Robles and the Grizzlies head into the national race a favorite.
Watch Robles cross the finish line HERE
read Brianna’s story below:
OCTOBER 20, 2021
A team seeking its own success
Inside the journey of Adams State cross country teams as they head into championship season
This story was reported and written by Brianna Robles, a senior at Adams State University majoring in communications and creative writing. Brianna participates in the Rural Journalism Institute of the San Luis Valley, a private non-profit organization of The Alamosa Citizen and its parent company, Zepol Media Partners, LLC. The Rural Journalism Institute of the SLV works with students and early-stage journalists to gain experience reporting and writing about rural communities like the San Luis Valley. Brianna is from Palmview, Texas.
by Brianna Robles | for the Citizen
BEING a runner has levels of challenges that most people don’t stop to consider. Fans line up on the days of the meets to cheer on their loved ones and they don’t often know what happens days, or even months before race day approaches. Running has its highs and lows, but no one ever stops to take into consideration that there are more days of struggle that come before any amount of success.
A year ago, the Adams State women’s cross country team took a major fall as it lost the RMAC Conference title and took fourth place. People who follow Adams State cross country were disappointed in the program, and it left many in shock because when you hear Adams State Cross Country your mind instantly goes toward thinking about all the national titles the school has won.
I was a part of this tragedy and was left wanting more after experiencing such an embarrassment. At the starting line lies a level of pressure and expectation that lasts all the way until you cross the finish line. The thing is, even after the race is over friends, alumni, fans, and parents still want more. To wear a jersey with the Adams State name across your chest is a privilege, but to live up to the name has to come from deep within. You have to learn to be tough and learn to run with your heart.
Moving forward from last year’s performance at the conference meet, many more miles have been run, sweat and tears have left the excess of our bodies, but most importantly the bar has been set even higher. Going into championship season, starting Saturday with the RMAC Championships in Golden, the Adams State women’s cross country team is ranked tied for first place, while the men’s team is ranked number three. Everyone is working hard to finish the season off with a national title. The world around is watching carefully, and as the days get closer everyone wants to know if Adams State will come out on top. The stakes are high because this team has so much to live up to as Adams State University has been a part of history for the past 100 years. Each year, Adams State has continued to add on to the legacy of being known for having an elite Cross Country and Track and Field program. In 1971 the Men’s Cross Country team was the first ever in the history of Adams State to bring home a national title under then-interim head coach Larry Jeffryes, filling in for Coach Joe I. Vigil who was on a sabbatical. The legacy continued as the program developed under the direction of Coach Vigil as he led Adams State to 14 Men’s Cross Country titles and 2 Track and Field titles from 1965 to 1993. Coach Damon Martin began his career under the guidance of Coach Vigil as an assistant coach and later became an interim head coach in 1988. He has added to the program’s success and created his own legacy of national title teams.
History in the making
The program itself has produced many opportunities for these athletes to compete for something more than just themselves and has allowed them to be a part of so much more than a national winning team. To be a part of the Adams State Cross Country and Track and Field team means to be a part of history in the making. In the process of chasing excellence comes the hardships and the building blocks that lead toward performing on top, but not all experiences are the same for everyone. Adams State is well-known for its running program, but it is so much more as it brings people from different parts of the world together to chase one goal, and many of the alumni are more than happy to discuss their journey. Pablo Vigil, part of the 1972 class, said, “My experience was phenomenal, coming from a small town in northwestern Colorado and now coming to Alamosa. By being part of 4,000 students from all over the world, it was one of the greatest things I have ever experienced.” Being able to step up to the starting line, and then as the gun goes off, many athletes with the same passion bleed green together to achieve greatness. Even sprinters like Ivory Joe Hunt, who was part of the class of 1982, felt the pull of the distance running program. “My experience was unreal,” he said. “I was a sprinter and Coach Vigil didn’t know I was. He had me working out with the distance group, but it was an experience I will never ever forget and as a black man our culture can’t be beat, but it was good being part of this program.”
WHEN it comes to building a legacy, there has to be a connection and trust for it all to fall into place. It takes a lot to walk onto this team and begin to create a bond among each other. The thing is, this team is filled with individuals who have endless talent. What really matters the most are those who are willing to give in to the program. Every year freshmen come in and a new adjustment is made as previous athletes graduate, and sometimes it leaves the world wondering who is going to be able fill in the shoes of athletes like Sydney Gidabuday or Eilish Flanagan, two of Adams State’s most accomplished runners. Even though Adams State has some stellar athletes who have graduated, there are always new and younger athletes who aren’t afraid to chase after being on top. “The team at Adams State always felt like family,” Eilish Flanagan said. “It was a very close-knit team with everyone wanting to do good for each other.” Within a team that has many multiple national trophies lined up, everyone wants a taste of that success but sometimes it creates a dent in the team dynamic. Sometimes workouts become a little bit competitive, and some people often forget that the goal we are chasing is a “team goal.” We don’t need one person in the front of the pack while the others are spread out in the back. More than anything we need unity, and sometimes that is difficult to focus on because sometimes it seems as if we are running with targets on our backs rather than running for each other. Mary Montoya said, “being a part of the 1980 team as Denise and I were the first women on the team we watched the men and were encouraged and supported by the men, which was huge leading up to winning the national championship and seeing the men being so excited made me feel like the whole program and I were a part of something big.” This atmosphere was created because in reality we are not competing against each other but competing against the voice in our heads and chasing after one goal in unity that will lead us toward success.
When being a part of a program built off years of greatness, sometimes pressure is a huge factor. Sydney Gidabuday is a well-known name at Adams State and has had his fair share of national titles. Gidabuday said, “I didn’t feel pressure outside of myself. The legacy that was created before me made it easy to make the right choices in daily life. I dreamed of being like those that came before me, so I chased that.” Hearing legendary runners like Gidabuday discuss that there is no need for pressure is quite eye-opening. When it comes to the current cross country team at Adams State the bar seems to be set high. I think the pressure is always there even though no one will admit it. This group is mostly freshmen and sophomores, many of whom have never even set foot on a national course, and I feel there is a level of expectation waiting to be met. The last time the women’s team won a national title was in 2019, where Eilish Flanagan said “making history in 2019 by winning with the lowest score in DII History was something I never had imagined accomplishing when coming to Adams State.” The reality is the current team at Adams State is in the eyes of the public because they still have not reached the level of achievement the team before and have many challenges to overcome within themselves.
Even as championship season approaches, confidence needs to begin to make its way into play for these athletes. Often I think we focus too much on what the generations before us have accomplished and we forget that all of that isn’t going to be given to us just by wearing the jersey; we ourselves have to show our competitors that they must continue to fear Adams State. When we get on the starting line at times, I feel we forget the power of the name on our jerseys. We just have to embrace it, have fun, and run for each other. Adams State itself may have plenty of national titles, but none of those titles are rightfully ours because we didn’t earn them or compete in those races. As nationals approaches toward the end of November the one thing that should be on our minds is winning and chasing after our own national title to add to all the ones that came before us.
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