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Courtesy: Jeff Huehn/UTSA Athletics

Leader of the pack

Courtesy: UTSA Athletics Communications
Release: 10/27/2010
Courtesy UTSA Athletics Communications
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SAN ANTONIO — Following last year’s cross country season, Albert Cardenas knew he needed to change the way he approached and prepared for meets if he wanted to become a key contributor to the Roadrunners’ success in 2010.

And change is exactly what he did.

Following 22nd- and 107th-place finishes at the Southland Conference Championships and NCAA South Central Regional, respectively, the junior from Converse decided that only a renewed commitment to his craft was going to take him to the next level.

“Last December, I began to realize that I needed to bust my butt throughout the winter so I could finally begin contributing to the team in the way I was asked to when I came here,” Cardenas said. “Things began to click for me and, in doing things right, I learned a lot and started to do well during the track season.”

He was a key contributor during the team’s second indoor/outdoor conference sweep in the last three seasons a year ago.

Cardenas ran the anchor leg on the program’s first-ever championship distance medley relay and finished second in the mile at the indoor meet. He followed that performance with a fourth-place effort in the metric mile outdoors.

The 5-foot-8, 160-pounder took exactly one day off following the end of the outdoor campaign and quickly proceeded with his plan to be a leader for upcoming cross country season, which began on the first day of September.

To date, the results have been nothing short of amazing.

Cardenas has been the squad’s top finisher in all five meets this fall and he has finished no worse than sixth overall in all but one of those races.

“A lot of my success this season has been hard work and planning things out, trying to do the little things right, actually,” he said. “It’s not just staying in shape in getting my runs in either. It’s about taking care of my body, getting rest, eating healthy and making sure my school work is done. I think I’ve been able to limit the extra stress, which, in turn, has allowed me to focus on performing at a high level.”

With the Southland Championships now on the horizon, Cardenas and his teammates have high expectations for the 8,000-meter race that gets underway at 9:45 a.m. on Thursday in Beaumont.

“We have high hopes for this week’s meet,” he said on Monday afternoon. “We know we have a shot at the championship, but SFA, McNeese and Lamar are going to be tough. We’re going into it knowing that it’s all about placement and not the times we run, so we’re going to try push one another to get the job done.”

UTSA will be looking to better its third-place finish from a year ago, which was the program’s best in more than a decade.

Fifth-year head coach Scott Slade has been impressed with the transformation that his third-year pupil has made this fall.

“Everyone likes the idea of being good, but Albert has internalized the concept that he controls his destiny and how good he becomes is dependent upon how much work he wants to put in,” Slade said. “I have admired his renewed dedication to this team. He has become a role model and has led us to greater and greater performances this fall.”

Despite his success this season, Cardenas is nowhere close to resting on his current laurels.

“I’m never satisfied,” he said. “The NCAA’s is everyone’s goal when they come to college and I didn’t just come to UTSA to compete at conference. I’m going to continue to work hard and, as long as I stay healthy, who know’s what will happen.”

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