Following an impressive season opener in which both the men and the women placed second at the University of San Francisco Invitational, the Bears will travel to Virginia to compete in the Panorama Farms Invitational. The men will begin their 8000-meter race at 10 a.m., and the women will start at 10:30 a.m. With this being just the second race of the season, it will provide the teams a gauge of where they are.
“Our first meet was just an initial ‘get out there and see where we’re at,’” said assistant head coach Shayla Houlihan. “This is kind of the first stab at some good competition.”
The Bears will see some fairly strong schools running against schools from divisions such as the SEC and the ACC. Schools participating in the men’s 8000-meter event include UNC, Duke, Louisville, Auburn and Navy.
“This is an interregional meet,” said head coach Tony Sandoval. “We’re certainly going to see teams that we normally don’t get to see. It will give us something to measure ourselves off with.”
Schools running in the women’s 5000-meter event include UNC, Virginia, Louisville, Harvard, Navy, Ole Miss and Auburn.
Last year in the Panorama Farms Invitational, Cal placed fourth for women and sixth for men. For the Bears, this will be their first road competition, and the coaching staff will look for a strong collective team effort. With only a handful of upperclassmen on the roster, the Bears will keep an eye out for potential contributors in the future.
“I’m excited about everyone, honestly, because it’s our first travel squad together, so we’re seeing if all the pieces are finally falling together,” Houlihan said. “I’m excited to see who’s going to step up and be our fourth or fifth person for scoring points.”
A couple of runners looking to be standouts in carrying their team are juniors Kelsey Santisteban and Chris Walden. Santisteban stole the show last month in San Francisco, capturing the women’s individual title, while Walden ran extremely well, placing second overall. Despite the two junior leaders, the Bears will still need to rely on other runners to contribute.
“Cross-country is a team sport,” Sandoval said. “(For) the better teams, their No. 1 runner rotates among two or three people. We’re hoping that that will happen this year. We have been training to run as a group, and hopefully that we’ll have a number of people be our top runner at various meets throughout the season.”
Although it is early in the season, the Bears know exactly what their goals are heading into Saturday’s contest and in their 2013 campaign.
“This starts our goal at getting to nationals,” Houlihan said.
“Every year, we have the expectation of qualifying for the nationals,” Sandoval said. “We’ve had either a men’s or women’s team qualify. We’ve never had both qualify at the same time. That would be something we are looking forward to.”
Richard Lee covers cross country. Contact him at [email protected].