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Ex-ENMU runner ready to take cross country reins

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One year away from Eastern New Mexico University was apparently enough for Danielle Kcholi.

The former Danielle Jones ran cross country and track for the Zias from 2007-11 after graduating from Albuquerque’s Cibola H.S. In 2012 she served as the interim cross country coach for the Greyhounds and Zias, then spent one year as a track and cross country assistant at NCAA Division Concordia University in Austin, Texas.

She was named cross country coach on Aug. 1 and track coach less than two weeks later.

The Greyhounds and Zias open the cross country slate today in Adams State’s Joe Vigil Invitational at Alamosa, Colo.

ENMU’s men won Lone Star Conference cross country titles in 2011 and 2012 before finishing second behind West Texas A&M last year.

“We’ve graduated a few runners, but I hope we’ll be able to fill those spots,” she said. “I feel we’re a stronger team because we have everybody that wants to be here.”

Senior Jacob Lozano of Hobbs is expected to be the Hounds’ top runner, although he hasn’t run cross country since 2011.

“He’s an incredible talent from New Mexico,” Kcholi said. “We’re fortunate to have him here.”

Lozano said he’s ready to step into a lead role.

“I haven’t stopped running,” he said. “At the end of the day, the goal is still the same and that’s to finish (well) and set some PRs (personal records).”

He’s hoping the Hounds can do well beyond the LSC meet.

“I’m looking forward to trying to help bring that (LSC) championship back here. But there’s two more postseason races (the South Central Region championship and the NCAA Division II championships, the latter in Louisville, Ky.) after that.”

Others who should do well include seniors Justin Samaniego of Rubidoux, Calif.; Zerrick Vriseno of Belton, Texas, and Kevin Roa of Salinas, Calif., and junior Chase Hamilton of West Liberty, Iowa, a transfer from Iowa Western CC.

The women were fourth in last year’s LSC meet and return a large potion of their core from that team, including seniors Beth Bind of Kennedale, Texas, and Sabrina Huelga of Lancaster, Calif., and junior Amber Saiz from Belen. Newcomers who could help include juniors Klaudia Saych of Szcaun Poland, and Azalia Rodriguez of Dallas, both juco transfers, and freshman Coly Norcross of Albuquerque (Eldorado H.S.).

Depth is perhaps the team’s main issue, Kcholi said.

“Our top three girls are coming off amazing track seasons,” she said. “Next year, I hope to increase our depth. Right now, I’m terrified about (the possibility of) injuries.”

Kcholi is hopeful the Zias, picked fourth in the preseason, can actually finish higher than that.

“They have the challenge,” she said. “It’s just a matter of putting it together.”

CROSS COUNTRY

September

6 — Adams State Invitational; 27 — at Oklahoma State Jamboree.

October

10 — at West Texas A&M dual; 25 — West Texas A&M Buffalo Stampede.

November

8 — LSC championships at Wichita Falls, Texas.