Santisteban earns first overall as Cal cross country excels at Pre-National Invitational

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Heading into pre-nationals, Cal cross-country needed its runners to step up. On Saturday in the 2013 Indiana State Pre-National Invitational, Cal enjoyed impressive showings multiple runners in both the men’s and the women’s races.

Having experienced all different kinds of struggles in the earlier stages of this season, ranging from injuries to environmental changes in terrain, Cal showed little to no signs of being bothered Saturday. Despite racing against a large number of teams in harsh weather, the Bears did not allow the crowded lanes and the cold weather and rain to negatively impact their results.

Proving to be one of the strongest teams of the day, the women’s squad dominated the competition in the 6K white race, claiming first overall out of 34 schools. Despite running a 6K race — an additional thousand meters compared with the usual 5K races they participate in — the women demonstrated they are even better with extra distance. Scoring 105 points with a total time of 1:47:22, Cal was able to edge out Virginia Tech’s 107 points on a total time of 1:47:48.90.

Leading the way for the Bears was junior Kelsey Santisteban, who captured first overall individually in a race of 227 runners with a time of 20:18.45. Not too far behind Santisteban was redshirt junior Heather Cerney, who came in 11th with a time of 21:25.61. Others who finished in the top 50 include sophomore Xochitl Navarrete, who recorded a time of 21:47.55, good for 24th overall; junior Sdyney Grey, who ran a 21:50.17 for 27th overall; and sophomore Mariel Mendoza, who placed 45th overall with a time of 22:01.05.

In addition to the substantial number of points that the women provided, head coach Tony Sandoval was pleased with the performance the men put on in the 8K blue race. One of the runners Sandoval was most impressed with was sophomore Thomas Joyce, who finished 103rd out of 359 runners with a time of 24:37.32, contributing to helping Cal earn the 27th spot out of 52 teams.

“I think Thomas Joyce did the best job,” Sandoval said. “This was probably his best race ever. He’s an up-and-down racer, but he’s never run a race like the one he did today.”

Running with an extra bounce to his step, Joyce beat his season best by 18 seconds (his previous fastest time was 24:55.6 in Virginia’s Panorama Farms Invitational). Along with Joyce’s time, Cal was carried by solid times from JP Slater, Jordan Locklear and Leland Later. Slater was the top runner for the Bears, finishing 98th overall with a time of 24:34.60. Locklear claimed 120th overall with a time of 24:46.20, and Later’s 24:47.42 was good for 125th.

“I think that we’re starting to run well,” Sandoval said. “We just have to make sure that we can find a contributing five that are dependable for us.”

Richard Lee covers cross country. Contact him at Contact him at [email protected].