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Commerce, TX

April 16, 2019 | Blake Cochran

The Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) men and women track teams returned to action on Friday, April 12th, as they headed to Texas A&M-Commerce . The team had been out of competition for three weeks and focusing on what Head Coach Jason Covarrubias calls, “Championship Training Phase” and were ready to roll.

Freshman Zackery Hammond (Corsicana, TX) started the day off in the 3000-meter steeplechase, where he was coming into the race ranked 2nd in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) and owner of the school record with the time of 9:51.47. The field was very competitive and Hammond fit right in as he finished 3rd with the time of 9:41.58. This was an improvement for both his national qualifying time and the SAGU school record. Later in the day, another school record fell, as freshman Ayla Pope (Buffalo, MO) blazed in just her second attempt at the 400m with the time of 1:04.79. Pope just missed the NCCAA qualifying mark of 1:02.00 but is currently ranked 19th in the nation.

Other notable runners from the East Texas Invitational for the women were Alexandria Castillo and Caitlin Cruz , and for the men was Arturo Valdez . Castillo, from Irving, TX , set a personal best as she finished fifth in her heat of the 1500m with the time of 5:33.64. La Porte, TX native, Cruz set a personal record with the time of 21:31.38 in the 5000m. Finally, Valdez set collegiate personal records in both the 1500m and 800m with the time of 4:11.88 and 2:00.37, respectively.  His 800m time was good enough to win his heat and place 6th out of 25 runners.

“Today was a huge step for a program. We have a lot of young inexperienced but talented runners, and they stepped up to the line and performed across the board. We train hard, every day, but the hardest thing is not the training but to execute the training in a race. That is what we did this evening! There is so much upside to this team I get goosebumps just thinking about it, we just have to put our heads down and go back to work tomorrow in order to keep on improving. I am very proud of each runner, EACH runner!”

The team’s final competition of the 2019 outdoor season will be at the Oliver Jackson Twilight hosted by Abilene Christian University on Wednesday, April 24th.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University is a private, Christian university located 30 minutes south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in Waxahachie, Texas. The university was established in 1927, and now offers more than 70 associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees on campus or online. More information is available at

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