As the cross-country season gets down to its last month, the women’s team has overcome some significant obstacles.
With a whole roster consisting of freshmen, the Wolves looked for leadership to ride them through the season.
The Wolves soon found out that first-time runner Tiffany Lehmann was their answer. She was given freshman eligibility for running cross country even though this is her third year attending JJC.
“She is a freshman eligibility-wise for cross country,” head coach Jeffery DeGraw said. “She played soccer here for two seasons.”
Prior to her arrival at JJC, Lehmann was home schooled, leaving her with little opportunity to get involved in sports.
DeGraw was introduced to Lehmann through her former head soccer coach when she mentioned that she was able to run fast.
“Last year our soccer coach mentioned that she was fast and that I should try and get her out for cross country,” DeGraw said. “I mentioned that being fast on a soccer field is different than running and racing 5,000 meters. Boy was I wrong.”
Lehmann rose to the occasion immediately. On Sept. 18, Lehmann led the Wolves to a third-place finish, completing a 5,000 meter in 20:29. This marked her first-ever cross-country race finishing behind two NJCAA Division I runners.
It didn’t stop there, just three days later Lehmann was awarded NJCAA Division III Women’s National Athlete of the Week by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. (USTFCCCA).
“Tiffany has taken to the sport like she has been a part of it for a long time,” said DeGraw. “She is extremely hard working and wants to learn.”
On Sept. 28, Lehmann had, what was called by her coaches, the most exciting race thus far. The Wolves were at the Olivet Nazarene meet when Lehmann went head-to-head with former Wolves runner Ana Pineda, who now runs for University of St. Francis.
Lehmann ran a very competitive race against the two-time All-American. Lehmann pulled away late, finishing with her best time of the season, beating the former Wolves’ runner.
“She is a very good athlete and very competitive,” DeGraw said. “A great team person, and it fits in so well with everyone.”
Lehmann’s success has only grown throughout the season, as she has earned the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Athlete of the Week three times now, the last honor coming on Oct. 15.
The incredible start from Lehmann has led the Wolves up the ladder in the national rankings and NJCAA awards. They hope she can lead the Wolves to continued success in November after the hot start to the season
“She is learning how to race, and we have had some difficult conditions at times to race,” DeGraw said. “But she has done a great job. There is so much potential for her in this sport, and I hope to get a meet which has great weather to see how fast she can go.”