The postseason is upon the Bears, and the stakes couldn’t be any higher. This Friday, the Cal cross country team will be in Tucson, Arizona, to compete in the Pac-12 Championships.
The men’s and women’s races are set to be run on the Randolph North Golf Course. This marks the fourth instance in which the event has taken place in the state of Arizona and just the second time it will be hosted by the Wildcats.
The first gun will go off at 9:30 a.m. to launch the start of the women’s 6K race. It will begin with running 400 feet of open field at the starting line, followed by three loops of approximately 2,000 meters and finishing with 300 feet more of open field to cross the finish line.
The newly ranked No. 25 Cal women’s team has its work cut out for them, as its opponents include No. 1 Colorado, No. 2 Washington and No. 5 Oregon. The Bears can only hope to compete alongside them, but more realistically it will be seen in the middle of the pack running against No. 11 Stanford, No. 17 Utah and No. 23 UCLA.
It won’t get any easier for the men’s team as, one hour later, it’ll have to run four loops in the 8K competition. The Pac-12 lineup brings four of the top 10 teams in the country, including No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 Oregon, No. 7 Colorado and No. 10 UCLA. It is safe to say that Cal is competing in arguably the best conference in the nation as it has prepared itself accordingly to have a chance in being a worthy opponent.
“Executing the race plan, if we do that we will place well. We have a great opportunity to mix it up with the top teams in the nation,” said Cal head coach Shayla Houlihan. “There are no other conference meets that are as stacked as ours. It will be such a great experience to be able to race them on Friday.”
Colorado is the main storyline heading into the meet, as the men’s team eyes for a sixth straight conference title since joining the league in 2011. As for the women, the Buffaloes look to win back-to-back championships, which hasn’t been done since Washington did it back in 2008 and 2009.
Individually, Oregon senior Edward Cheserek seeks to become the first-ever four-time Pac-12 men’s champion. This has only been accomplished once in the conference’s history when Arizona’s Amy Skieresz did it from 1995 to 1998.
Meanwhile, for Cal, there is an entire regular season behind it that has proven to be valuable in its growth as a unit. All the development throughout the course of the season has finally led the team to the most important time of the year.
“We’ve learned a lot of great lessons both individually and as a team from the previous meets leading into the Pac-12 Championships,” Houlihan said. “We look to use these experiences to run our best team performance here in Tucson.”
Oscar Oxlaj covers cross country. Contact him at [email protected]