By Colin Shields / Online Editor

The No. 3 nationally ranked Hutchinson Community College women’s cross country team is set to run in the NJCAA Championships this Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida.

The Blue Dragons have used a combination of fresh legs and experienced sophomores to climb to as high as No. 2 in the national rankings and currently sit at No. 3 heading into the final race of the year.

Sophomore Louise Cocking credited the Blue Dragons freshman class of runners for the team’s success. “Those freshmen came in all guns blazing. They really put the work in, I remember my freshman year, I tried really hard but these girls really stepped up.” Cocking said. “It’s a big jump from high school to college and they did it.”

Blue Dragons coach Justin Riggs has also seen the freshman class improve for the Blue Dragons.

“We’ve had some huge contributions from our freshman class but also some good things from our sophomores as well.” Riggs said. “Some of the younger ones have come in and looked really good right off the bat. We have a really good sophomore up front in Louise Cocking, she has a lot of experience for us, she finished fifth her freshman year at nationals and has also been an All American in track. So she has a lot of experience to know how to approach the race.”

Riggs is also optimistic about the Blue Dragons’ chances of capturing a national title. The Blue Dragons were the Division 2 national champions in 2001.

“Cross country is a sport where you have to have all five runners,” Riggs said. “You can’t have one or two people carry the team as a star player or star runner. It’s about getting five across the line as fast as you can and you’re scored on that. It’s a whole team effort.”

With the team departing for Tallahassee on Tuesday morning, the Blue Dragons will train along the way in order to stay ready for the big race.

“We’ll train the whole way.” Riggs said. “We’ll stop each day to try and keep as much of a routine as possible. On Thursday and Friday we’ll have an opportunity to run on the course we’ll be racing on.”

The Blue Dragons will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.

Livestream information can be found at www.njcaa.org, and the Blue Dragons Twitter account will post a link as well.

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