The Southwestern Assemblies of God University’s cross country teams will look to continue the momentum they built last year when they start their seasons Saturday against Western Texas College. 

Last season, nine athletes from SAGU participated in the National Christian College Athletics Association Cross Country Championships. They return all but one runner from that championship group this season.

This SAGU cross country program is led by head coach Jason Covarrubias.

Covarrubias, entering his third season with SAGU, has coached cross country for 14 years. He coached the Cedar Hill High School program for nine years and headed Arlington Baptist College’s cross-country team for two years, winning the NCCAA national championship during his tenure.

Junior captain Destiny Garza, who placed second in the nation in the 10-kilometer race during the NCCAA National Cross Country Championships,  will return for her second season. 

Covarrubias said he believes this year will be even better for Garza.

“She’s a completely different runner this year,” said Covarrubias. “She had only run it twice and she was second in the nation on her second try. She’s good. She’s really and truly bought into the program and what we are about. She’s put in almost 600 miles this summer and is meet ready. She could be our first ever NAIA individual national championship cross-country qualifier.”

The Lions teams will also welcome former Newcomer of the Year winner Kelly Cook, who is healthy after an injury-plagued 2014.   

Cook qualified for the NCCAA National Championships in the first meet of her college career. 

Covarrubias said sophomore Gabriel Price will be one to watch this season.

“Gabriel took the team and put them on his back as a freshman,” said Covarrubias. “He has the potential to hit 26:00 in the 8k and qualify for the NAIA National Meet.”

He also lauded Walker Loyd, a Clarendon Junior College transfer who qualified for the National Junior College XC Championships. 

Covarrubias said he anticipates a big year for Loyd.

“There’s heart and then there’s talent,” said Covarrubias. “When you have both you can be lethal. He’s got both. He stays within his training, but he’s not afraid to put himself in position to win. He is going to be a big leader on the team.” 

Covarrubias and his runners traveled to Alpine and Fort Davis for the second time in the program’s three year history to gel as a team during a five-day retreat in early August.  For five days they trained in high altitude, running over 30 miles, in the Davis mountains.

He said the experience was enlightening and it mentally prepared the team for the coming season.

SAGU will kick off its cross country season at 8 a.m. on Saturday at Western Texas College.