The Allen Community College men's cross country had two of its top runners sign their letters of intent with Division I schools Tuesday afternoon. Pedro Montoya and Ben Najman, two of the Red Devils' most accomplished runners this cross country season, signed with Wichita State and Florida State, respectively. Montoya will finish out the year at Allen and begin his tenure at Wichita State in the fall of 2016. Najman, on the other hand, will wrap up this semester and then head off to Tallahassee to start his running career at FSU in the spring.
Each runner had considered other schools before finally landing on their ultimate decisions.
Montoya, who was recruited by the University of California-Berkeley and Notre Dame out of high school, was considering several D-II schools out west but decided staying in Kansas was his best option.
"Pedro was a highly touted Kansas recruit who had a lot of people pulling at him and giving him information on what he should or shouldn't do. Pedro coming to Allen really put Allen on the map in state of Kansas for future distance runners." "It really legitimized our program and gave us somebody that other runners knew and competed against while in high school. Pedro leaves Allen having the school record in the 8000m, ½ Marathon, Indoor 5000m, Outdoor 5000m and 10,000m records to his name. He leaves this program as one of the most decorated runners here.
Najman, who hails from the Bahamas but was born in Miami, FL, was also looking at WSU as well as the University of Kansas but wanted to run closer to his home. ACC assistant coach Josh Gracia who was also coached by Vince DeGrado while at Cowley, is a former runner for the Seminoles, also helped Najman land a spot with FSU. "Ben's recruiting process wasn't very hard, he pretty much was placed here by a family friend he was living with in Iowa. He wasn't high recruited out of HS, his times were very average and typical of what we'll see during the recruiting process. However, Ben's drive and work ethic allowed him to progress VERY quickly. He was able to break the Bahamas Junior National record twice while running for myself.
Both of these runners have meant so much to this program and laid more foundation for future runners to come.
The two sophomores recently competed in the NJCAA National Championship in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where they led the Red Devils to a sixth-place finish overall.
This past cross country season was their second under coach Vince DeGrado.
"It's just cool to see because they earned it," DeGrado said. "Anybody that was in their ear telling them what they shouldn't do, they still listened to themselves and went out and did it. And now, look at them."
by JONATHAN CZURPYN The Iola Register