Senior Chelsea Reilly could see the finish line in sight. A difficult race under the Arizona sun combined with an exhausting pace had been physically taxing on Reilly, yet she was still in eighth place and in line for an All-Conference finish in the top 15.
That’s when things began to fall apart.
The heat won the battle it had been waging on Reilly’s body and she began to fade. Runner after runner out-kicked her, resulting in a 20th place finish.
This was the story of the Cal women’s cross country team this past Saturday at the Pac-12 Championships held in Litchfield, Ariz. on the Wigwam Golf Course. The heat along with a variety of other factors led to a seventh place overall finish, nowhere near the potential of the No. 10 ranked Bears.
Before the race senior Deborah Maier decided to withdraw to heal an ailing ankle, leaving the team without its top runner over the past two years. In her absence, the Cal squad was led by Reilly, but the other runners struggled in the heat.
“Taylor Dutch didn’t run very well,” coach Tony Sandoval said. “She is usually very close to Reilly. Freshman Kelsey Santisteban also blew up in the heat, so I was disappointed in that regard. The heat was a major factor.”
The women’s race took place at 10 a.m., yet temperature began to sky rocket as the sun rose higher. After the race, the Cal women were not only shocked at their finish, but also many required medical assistance due to heat exhaustion.
“There was an element of emotional first aid particularly for the women’s team who was disappointed,” Sandoval said. “In the heat, Reilly had to be taken to the first aid, so did Kelsey, so it wasn’t a matter of looking at performance it was how they reacted to all that had happened.”
On the women’s side, No. 16 Colorado took the Pac-12 crown, followed by No. 2 Washington, No. 8 Stanford, No. 11 Oregon and No. 5 Arizona. Although the outcome would have been much different if Maier had raced, the Bears had the lowest finish out of the ranked teams.
While the women took a few steps back, the men’s team took a few big leaps forward towards overcoming their youth and experience by placing fifth overall and beating two ranked teams, No. 22 Washington State and No. 25 Arizona State.
“It was a great race for us,” junior Collin Jarvis said. “It wasn’t what we are 100 percent capable of, but it’s definitely the best race we have had all season.”
Jarvis paced the men for the fourth straight time, finishing 11th with a time of 23:34 over 8,000 meters. The men benefitted from a 9 a.m. start when temperatures were much cooler, allowing freshman Chris Walden and Maxime Chevee, who has been suffering from a knee injury, to finish 19th and 30th respectively.
“It helped the confidence level of our team,” Jarvis said. “We had a race that showed we are capable of doing it, we can go into regionals with a lot more confidence and a lot better idea of what we need to do.”