Cal cross country slips in USF Invitational results

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Extreme heat can do extreme things to the human body. In its most tepid form, it leads to heavy sweating, thirst and irritability. In its most acute form, it can cause muscle cramping, fatigue, faintness and nausea. And while these conditions can be problematic for a person performing normal, day-to-day functions, they have the potential to be downright overwhelming for an athlete. The Bay Area doesn’t experience many days that could be categorized like this, but this weekend was an anomaly.

While the schedule for Cal teams such as women’s soccer was whittled down Saturday due to this Bay Area heat wave, the Cal men’s and women’s cross country teams sped through the sultry swelter — pushing their minds and bodies through both mental and physical fog.

That heat could be one of the reasons why the Bears, who have performed very well at the USF Invitational in previous years, finished out of the top two in both the men’s and women’s races. Despite winning this meet for the past three years, the Cal men’s team took bronze this year, with the women’s team snagging the fourth spot.

The Bears sat out some of their veterans for this meet in order to save them for future ones, which could be fortuitous considering the extreme weather circumstances. Arguably the best runner for the men’s team — senior Trent Brendel, who won the meet in 2016 — was absent from it this year, and that showed in the results.

Cal’s top finisher on the men’s side was freshman Steven Khan, who placed 9th overall at 26:08.2, only 47.2 seconds behind the top finisher in the race. This finish bodes well for his future on the team, especially this early in the season. Khan was followed by fellow freshman Andrew Burkhardt, who came in at 17th place with a time of 26:28.4.

In the men’s category, the Dons reigned supreme in the race, with top runner Mohamed Aziz coming in at 25:21.0. USF won as a team, followed by Santa Clara, with scores of 26 and 37, respectively, handily beating next-best Cal, who finished with 73 points.

The Dons also won the women’s category handily, taking seven of the top 10 spots in the race. The Bears’ highest finish was grabbed by freshman Annie Boos, who took 13th with a time of 22:24.8. She was quickly followed by sophomore Marissa Dobry, who came in less than one second later to snag 14th place. As a team, they placed fourth with a score of 92, only 10 points behind the third-place team, University of Alaska Anchorage.

While heat is an unwelcome phenomenon for any athlete, it can hinder cross country runners in particular, who have no time for timeouts or short breaks during the span of their competitions. The Bears — a team particularly ill-equipped to handle such conditions because of the normally temperate weather of the Bay Area — nonetheless ran well, and the team in particular proved that its younger members have the potential for great things this season, especially if the weather permits.

Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]