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Valentin Pepiot Named All-American, Pierre Fontanarosa 71st

MXC - LtoR Valentin Pepiot & Pierre Fontanarosa (by Torrey Olson)

Valentin Pepiot and Pierre Fontanarosa. Photo by Torrey Olson.

On a cold morning at Tom Rutledge Cross Country Course in Missouri for the NCAA Division II National Championship, senior Valentin Pepiot (Multimedia Communications) became the first Academy of Art University men’s cross country NCAA All-American on Nov. 21.

Finishing the highest of any Urban Knight in program history at seventh overall, Pepiot completed the 10k course as the second runner from the elite West Region. Fellow Frenchman graduate student Pierre Fontanarosa (Multimedia Communications) came in at 71st overall out of 246 total competitors.

“It was an amazing race,” said Pepiot. “It felt amazing to be in the front pack with an intense pace considering the many turns the course offers. I ran my best race of the year, beating the two guys who finished in front of me in Regionals. To be top 10 in Nationals is crazy and I’m very happy [I] did it! Being an All-American feels amazing! I waited [for] this award for a long time and now it’s done.”

In the early going, Pepiot remained between spots 20 and 25, then, as the front pack began to break away midway through, he moved up to 13th. Eventual winner Alfred Chelanga of Shorter made his move to get to the front around in the final third of the race, and at that point, Olson explained that Pepiot responded well to get in good position despite the pain. He would eventually finish with a time of 29:54.1 in seventh overall.

MXC - LtoR Pierre Fontanarosa, Torrey Olson, Valentin Pepiot

(L–R) Pierre Fontanarosa, Torrey Olson and Valentin Pepiot.

“There’s a point in a race when you’re really hurting and have to decide [to] settle or chase,” said Director of Track & Field/Cross Country Torrey Olson. “He never stopped chasing until [the] very end and caught everyone he could have caught. There was a big gap between sixth and seventh, but Val could have easily stayed in 13th. He continued to push and challenge himself. I haven’t seen him do that in that stage of the race so to do it here with all the pressure on was awesome.”

In just his second 10k of the year, Fontanarosa pushed through for a 71st place finish, besting 175 runners in the process. He would post a time of 31:01.4 in the end and wound up just over a second beyond Nebraska Kearney’s Jahn Landrigan and Chico State’s Aaron Mora.

“Pierre ran a good race,” said Olson. “Val was 70th last year and Pierre was 71st this time. Pierre ran very well and had a couple of minor things that he can take away for next year, but those minor adjustments make a big difference at Nationals. I’m really glad he’ll be coming back and hopefully he’ll have some teammates with him next year.”