Cal cross-country’s Santisteban finishes 10th in the country at NCAA Championships

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“Say my name,” says Walter White in season five of Breaking Bad.

It might not be in the same context, but every time Cal cross-country takes the course, junior Kelsey Santisteban’s name comes up. Once you take a step back and look at what Santisteban has done every race this year, it’s impossible to ignore her. After what she did in the NCAA Championships in Indiana, Santisteban’s name is still going to be mentioned.

In a meet consisting of the most elite runners in the country, the All-American entered the competition as an individual qualifier. She left as the 10th best women’s individual in the entire country.

“She was great all year long, and this was the final examination,” said head coach Tony Sandoval.

And this was a final examination that would prove to have really pushed Santisteban to her limits.

Of course, an obvious challenge was the fact that this was the race showcasing the country’s most skilled and toughest runners. But that wasn’t the only thing Santisteban had to overcome. It was the running course — or rather, the mud course that she had to trek through.

“The conditions here were horrible,” Sandoval said. “In all my years of coaching, it was probably the top four or five worst racing conditions ever.”

The Bears have raced in Indiana before in the 2013 Indiana State Pre-National Invitational meet; however, that was more than a month ago, on Oct. 19. In Saturday’s race in late November, Cal discovered that Indiana weather had become a little more problematic.

It was about 30 degrees with high winds. The weather proved to be so cold that Santisteban was wearing tube socks around her arms. But the most significant environmental factor Saturday was the mud.

Cal’s track and field Twitter page tweeted “#mudeverywhere”. Under the tweet, a picture showed the coaching staff tending to Santisteban after the race and picking up her shoe. Nearly the entire shoe was covered in mud.

“She was mentally prepared and did a tremendous job,” Sandoval said. “She’s had a great season, and this was certainly her best race ever.”

Tenth place overall out of the 253 fastest runners in the collegiate level. In all of Cal’s past seasons, that’s the best performance that has ever been put on by a female competitor. Two years ago, redshirt senior Chelsea Riley and senior Deborah Maier came close. Unlike Santisteban, who qualified for the tournament as an individual, the entire women’s team earned a bid for the 2011 NCAA Championships. Riley finished 24th overall, while Maier took the 11th overall spot.

Kelsey Santisteban. It’s a household name now. Even if they wanted to, there’s no way followers of cross-country could forget her name. She has made her mark in the history books. From now on, whenever Cal cross-country is mentioned and we look back at the ones that have been the best, Santisteban’s name is going to be right there at the top as one of the greatest and most decorated runners to ever grace the course.

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