Obstacles always come into play for cross-country runners. Many factors have to be accounted for when a cross-country team approaches a race. A drop in temperature or an unfamiliar surface could be the little details that determine whether a runner finishes in the top 10 or ends up in the bottom half. For the Bears on Friday, there were certainly obstacles they had to work around.
Facing short rest, heavy winds and talented competition, the Cal cross-country team had to dig deep on Friday at the Sacramento State Interregional Jamboree. Carried by strong individual performances, the Bears were able to tough out a solid showing with the women finishing fifth out of 19 teams and the men fifth out of 14 teams. Weather conditions, on the other hand, proved to greatly affect the Cal cross-country runners.
“It was very windy today,” coach Tony Sandoval said. “We don’t have that kind of heavy winds where we train.”
Similar to last week at the Panorama Farms Invitational in Virginia, the Bears were forced to adapt to their environment. The Bears struggled last week running on Panorama Farm’s terrain as the hills led to a very slow start that greatly affected the Bears’ position in the rankings.
“(The winds in Sacramento) was somewhat like running hills,” Sandoval said.
Many Bears responded well to their settings, as two women finished in the top 25 individually, while three top 25 spots were secured on the men’s race.
Not allowing anything to slow her down, junior Kelsey Santisteban claimed first overall individually as she continued her hot start to the season. Clocking in at a time of 16:23, Santisteban recorded a new season-high, as she appears to be speeding up as the season goes on. Shaving off an average of approximately 30 seconds every race, Santisteban is quickly establishing herself as one of the premier runners in the country.
“Kelsey dominated the field,” Sandoval said. “From start to finish.”
Although Santisteban led the way, both the men and women’s teams were running without expected contributors. Once again, the men had to sit out Chris Walden and Collin Jarvis. After placing second overall at the University of San Francisco Invitational, Walden has sat out the past two races while Jarvis has yet to take the field this season. In addition to the missing runners from the men’s squad, the women’s team did not suit up Heather Cerney.
Despite being short-handed, the men’s team enjoyed a much-needed lift from redshirt senior J.P. Slator and sophomore Leland Later. Slator and Later were two seconds apart from each other, with Slator finishing 10th with a time of 23:53 while Later placed 12th, only two seconds behind his teammate.
Even though there were a handful of standouts, the Bears could not climb higher in the charts. One reason that might’ve affected Cal was the minimal rest in-between meets from last Saturday to Friday. Still, Sandoval views Friday’s race as a stepping stone for his cross-country program as his runners learn to fight through obstacles heading into later this season.
“We made some progress moving forward,” Sandoval said. “I think the big challenge for us was to be able to come back within six days for those people that went to Virginia. Most people were tired but I think we have to be able to come back and have a sharp turnaround because if we qualify for nationals, we’re not going to have the luxury of a couple weeks to recover.”
Richard Lee covers cross country. Contact him at Contact him at [email protected].