FARMINGTON — Diné College cross country has one national champion this year and two teams they said will threaten for team titles next year. Dustin Abeita, a Diné freshman, won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association cross country title. He finished the five-mile course in 27 minutes 36 seconds. Diné's men finished second place overall in the team standings and the women finished fourth at the USCAA National Championship in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Friday. The USCAA is an association for small colleges. Behind Abeita's title, Ronald Hicks finished fourth and Herbert Beyale III finished ninth for the Warriors. It was below freezing at the meet. The course primarily followed a cross county ski trail that had more hills, sharp turns and snow than Diné runners were used to. The women's cross country team for Diné team had five runners this year, the minimum needed for a team. All five team members finished every race, including the national championship race where they finished fourth out of 17 schools that competed. It took mental toughness to run and score points in every meet during the season, which sets the stage up well for next year, said Gavin Sosa, the Diné College coach. “A lot of runners fold under that kind of pressure,” he said. “They all pushed through the aches and pains. “I think we were very lucky that we had these five women who were dedicated.

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They all stayed healthy and committed.” Tatiyanah Johnson, a 19-year-old from Tuba City, Ariz., was the fastest runner for the Diné women. She finished third overall in the women's race, despite having to slow down during the last mile because of a rolled ankle. Johnson is a first-year college runner and was the clear No. 1 runner for the women's team all year. She lived up to the role, despite sitting out a year from competitive running as a freshman at Diné. The 2010 graduate of Tuba City High School didn't plan to run in college. “I graduated and I wanted to focus on school. I thought I was done running,” she said. “But after watching my (little sister) run races in high school, it made me miss wanting to run and push myself.” Sosa said Johnson kept her competitive edge during her year off. “She was going through the nerves of competing, but she never faltered in races,” Sosa said. Telaine Henry finished 15th and Tizanna Henry finished 19th. All the women are freshmen runners and have more eligibility. They can each compete at Diné for one more year. Sosa said it's not clear which of his runners will be returning. Johnson said she'll be back to chase down an individual title. “I'm looking forward to running again for Diné College,” she said. “My goal is to become an individual champion and to bring my teammates along to become national champions.”