Seventieth place. On Nov. 17 of last year, that was where junior Kelsey Santisteban finished in the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Ky. On Saturday in the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind., Santisteban returns to the NCAA Championships once again to compete in the country’s most distinguished meet.
She’s done it all for Cal cross-country this year. Leaving vapor trails behind her competition all year, Santisteban has distinguished herself, by far, as the Bears’ best overall athlete.
For the Bears as a team, the season is over. For Santisteban, she will aim to extend her long string of dominant performances over the whole season.
But Saturday’s meet isn’t going to be like any race Santisteban has competed in all year. This time, she will not have her entire team to run behind her. It’s going to be a solo mission for the junior as she takes on 31 full teams in addition to 38 individual runners. But this is still going to be an opportunity for Santisteban to showcase her abilities before the entire country while taking on the best runners in college sports.
Santisteban will be seeing some familiar faces, such as No. 2 Arizona and No. 5 Colorado. Additionally, Santisteban will square off against another individual qualifier for the West region, Arizona State’s Shelby Houlihan. Last Friday in the NCAA Regional Championships, Houlihan beat Santisteban by 15 seconds. Santisteban will have a chance to run with Houlihan once again heading into Saturday’s season finale.
Throughout the entire 2013 season, Santisteban has done everything right. She’s taken all the little steps and done everything she’s had to do to reach her season’s goal. By earning a ticket back to the highest tier of cross-country competition, Santisteban has put herself in a position in which every runner longs to be.
Richard Lee covers cross country. Contact him at Contact him at [email protected].