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Friday, May 20, 2022

Track & Field

Pineda emerges as cross country team’s top performer

Junior runner Nate Pineda finished in third place at the Johnny Morriss UH Invitational on Sept. 3. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Coming into his third season, junior Nate Pineda has learned that it’s not just speed that wins, but also patience and teamwork.

Both Pineda and head coach Ryan Turner knew that the mental aspect of running was the next step in Pineda’s improvement.

“Nate’s become a lot smarter,” Turner said. “He understands that you can’t run like a wild man. He’s got to tame his inner animal and be able to recognize moments in races when he has to go after it, or when he needs to relax a little bit and be patient. In a 25 minute race, you can’t run as fast as you can the entire way or you’re not going to be able to finish.”

Pineda also feels that he’s made progress in controlling himself when he’s competing.

“I had a big habit of going all out. I’m a lot more experienced this year, so I’m able to be patient and be more of a team player,” he said.

Pineda feels that he owes much of his improvement to the guidance of Turner.

“That man is a genius,” Pineda said. “He already knows the type of runner I am, so he knows what to do to get me on the right track and how to help me run fast.”

Pineda is a fast runner indeed. He was honored as All-Conference USA Third Team in 2009, and his goals for this season are even higher.

“Last year, I got Third Team All-Conference and it’s even better if I shoot for First Team All-Conference this year,” he said. “And at the rate my training is going, the sky’s the limit.”

But that’s not his only goal. Pineda was quick to switch to the team, where he had even bigger goals in mind.

“Team-wise, we’re aiming for the top three,” he said. “This team that we have here, we have the talent to get to the top three. That’s my goal and the team’s goal as well.”

It is this confidence and hunger that earns him the trust and respect of Turner and his teammates.

“(We plan to) continue for him to be our front man in our cross country program and continue to get him in position to be in the All-Conference Team,” Turner said.

As a veteran, Pineda knows that his performance is not the only thing that he has to worry about; he must also be a leader for the younger members.

“To these freshmen, we’re like guides,” Pineda said. “Sometimes we had to learn the hard way, or make the right decision without knowing. Now that we have younger guys, it’s a good experience knowing that they’re there to listen to you. Obviously, they understand that we have more knowledge in what we do.”

It’s this dynamic and respect that makes the team feel as if it’s one big family.

“We’ve had some injuries, and some things happened and it just brings us all together as a family and we can count on each other,” Pineda said.

Pineda extended his streak of team-leading finishes, placing fifth at the LSU Tigers Cross Country Festival on Sept. 24. The next cross country meet will be Oct. 9 at the Disney Cross Country Classic.

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