Freshman of the Year Leads UCF to Top Five Finish


AUGUSTA, Kan. – Led by Freshman of the Year Valerie Lastra, the UCF cross country team posted a fifth-place finish at the 2020 American Athletic Conference Cross Country Championship on Saturday at 4 Mile Creek Resort.

"I'm extremely proud of these women," UCF assistant coach Bryan Jackson said. "Obviously (I'm happy) with how they raced today, but also how they have handled this pandemic. We talked a year ago about using this time productively and being a better team because of the adversity of the last year. Every single woman on this team bought into our vision and we are a better team because of the last 11 months."
Lastra posted the fastest time by a freshman at the conference meet since 2017, finishing fourth overall in 21:10.55. The Miami native, who also earned all-conference accolades, is the first Knight to earn Freshman of the Year in The American.
In just two meets this season, Lastra broke Anne-Marie Blaney's freshman 5K and 6K records. Her fourth-place finish is the best conference debut by a Knight.
Victoria Jung saved her best for last, using a personal best time of 22:27.26 to finish 25th overall in her final AAC cross country championship meet. In addition to her 6K PR, Jung also turned in her highest finish at the conference meet.
UCF had four Knights in the top 35 as Alexandra Del Re and Charlotte Crook finished 33rd and 34th, respectively. Del Re made her AAC debut with a 22:40.41 showing while Crook posted her best AAC placing as she crossed the line in 22:41.29.
Mackenzie Czurak (23:22.23), Katie Pinnell (23:31.30) and Kaitlyn Soltis (23:40.91) rounded out UCF's seven performers.
Turning in the best finish in The American since 2016, the Black and Gold also picked up six points for UCF in the War on I-4, bringing the count to 15-3 in favor of the Knights.
UCF Results
4. Valerie Lastra 21:10.55
25. Victoria Jung 22:27.26
33. Alexandra Del Re 22:40.41
34. Charlotte Crook 22:41.29
54. Mackenzie Czurak 23:22.23
56. Katie Pinnell 23:31.30
59. Kaitlyn Soltis 23:40.91
Team Results
1. Tulsa 40
2. Wichita State 61
3. Cincinnati 70
4. Temple 104
5. UCF 143
6. ECU 153
7. SMU 164
8. Houston 220
9. Memphis 263
10. South Florida 273