This weekend marks the end of accomplished runner Paul Arredondo's cross country career. However, Arredondo will be competing in the NCAA Men's Cross Country Championship for the second time in his career.
He gained the honor to compete in the championship last season with his fellow teammates, but this time around, Arredondo will be representing the 49ers alone this weekend. The redshirt fourth-year has been through it all with a career full of unexpectedness, including a coaching change after his first-year campaign.
"Paul actually ran his first year for the coach that was here before me. I'm in my fifth year, so Paul has been here longer than me," said head coach Joseph Lynn.
Despite the graduate student's challenges, it hasn't impacted his production as a runner one bit. Arredondo is a multiple first-team Conference USA athlete and has provided consistency in all his years running for the 49ers program.
Arredondo has been close to earning first place in the Conference USA Championship a handful of times in his career, most recently a second-place finish in 2020. Still, he finally got over the hump and grabbed first place in the prestigious race a few weeks ago.
"It seems like almost every year I peak too early, but this season I've just remained patient with myself and hoped that I'd peak at the right time, which is now," said Arredondo.
Despite achieving this feat for the first time in his career, Arredondo isn't satisfied with the level of success he's obtained this season. He's striving for much more this weekend against some of the best runners across the country.
"Just qualifying was a really good accomplishment but at the same time we're not just happy to be there, we're going there to compete, and in that sense I think I can realistically be an All-American which is top 40, so that's my number one goal," Arredondo said.
Coach Lynn expects Arredondo to be ready and take full advantage of the opportunity this Saturday.
"He's put the work in, he's definitely strong and talented enough to achieve the All-American honor, so hopefully we can put it all together on race day and come home with an All-American," he said.
Arredondo and Coach Lynn have built a strong relationship over the past few years and the 49ers Running Program will heavily miss Arredondo's leadership and production.
"I think we can know what each other are thinking or finish each other's sentences as far as like how training should go or how to approach certain situations come race day, so when you get that type of relationship with a student-athlete, that's definitely special, but he'll definitely be a person I miss once his career is over here at the end of the school year," said Lynn.
The NCAA Men's Cross Country Championship will take place at 11:10 a.m. on Saturday at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida. Paul Arredondo will get one last chance to shine for the Niners in his final Cross Country race in hopes of gaining the All-American Honor.