Despite ups and downs by individual athletes, the Cal cross country team has managed to improve its team placing at every race this season. Director of Cal cross country Tony Sandoval should certainly be pleased with the development of the underclassmen on the team. With the NCAA Qualifiers less than a month away, however, the team doesn’t have much more time for training and development.
The Bears competed at two races this weekend in preparation for the Pac-12 Championships and NCAA Qualifiers next month. The first squad traveled to the venue of the 2015 NCAA Championships, E.P. Tom Sawyer Park in Louisville, Kentucky, for the NCAA Pre-Nationals and raced some of the best teams in the country, including Arkansas, Colorado and Oregon. The B team consisted mostly of freshmen and sophomores and raced at the Bronco Invitational in Sunnyvale, California.
The Cal women were led by standout freshman Marissa Williams, who followed up a 11th place finish at the Roy Griak Invitational in the first race of her competitive career by capturing 17th place in the individual 6k race at the NCAA Pre-Nationals.
Williams has shown no sign of nerves or backing down from competition, even considering the impressive speed on display this weekend in Louisville. The women’s race, boasting 311 entries, was won by Colorado junior Erin Clark, who finished in 20:00.05. Several other Bears also showed up strong, as junior Georgia Bell took 56th, senior Mariel Mendoza took 119th and freshman Jordyn Colter took 121st. The team was unable to improve upon last year’s ninth place effort and took 11th place overall.
The Cal men set off on the 8k course in the first race of the day as they looked to continue their strong team performances at the Roy Griak Invitational and the SF Invitational.
Although the Cal men lacked an individual performer on the level of Williams, they more than made up for it with solid performance from top to bottom. As usual, senior Chris Walden led the Bears, finishing 42nd in the 288-entry race. Sophomore John Lawson finished 45th, junior Leland Later took 63rd, sophomore Trent Brendel took 64th, freshman Robert Brandt took 86th and senior Thomas Joyce finished 97th.
The Bears all finished within thirty seconds of each other and captured seventh place overall. The performance was a huge improvement from the team’s poor showing at the meet in 2014 and showcased the depth of the Cal men’s cross country team.
The second group of runners raced at the Bronco Invitational in Sunnyvale this weekend. Freshman Natalie Herberg led the Cal women, finishing 30th in a time of 21:15. In the men’s event, the Bears were able to secure third place overall with a number of strong performances. Freshman Steve Correa led the Bears by posting a time of 24:16, good for 12th place. Freshman Ellis Newton claimed 22nd, sophomore Cameron Tu took 28th, freshman Max Leach finished 44th, junior Seamus Land took 54th and sophomore John Hogan finished 81st.
This weekend’s racing essentially confirmed the narrative of the Cal cross country team. The Cal women are heavily dependent on a few outstanding performers while the Cal men rely on their depth to secure a high team placing. Replacing Williams’ 17th-place finish with an average performance would have resulted in the Cal women dropping 10 places in the team standings. In contrast, the Cal men were led by Walden, but were not dependant on the performance of any one athlete.
George Wu covers cross country. Contact him at [email protected]