Cal cross country tested at Pac-12 Championships in Stanford

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One down, two to go. Cal cross country finished the first of the three legs of its season’s championship loop Friday, Oct. 26 in the Pac-12 Championships at the Stanford golf course.

The men’s side finished the race in seventh place out of the nine teams competing. Stanford was able to defend its title from last year.

Graduate student Garrett Corcoran once again headlined the men’s team, finishing in 19th place with a time of 23:30.4. With 79 runners competing on the men’s side, Corcoran remained near the head of the pack, finishing with a gap of 21.4 seconds between Corcoran and the eventual winner.

To qualify for nationals, Corcoran must continue to achieve higher results and finish within the top 25 at regionals. Finishing at 19th place is certainly a positive sign.

“It looks like as we move up to the 10K in two weeks, we’ll really be in a good position to beat some teams that got us at 8K earlier this year,” redshirt senior Ryan Peck said. “Individually, Andrew (Burkhardt) really pulled through for us, going under 24 minutes. That’s a big deal, and he’s setting a great example.”

The aforementioned Burkhardt, a redshirt sophomore, completed the race in 35th place with a time of 23:59.2, while Peck finished in 48th place with a time of 24:34.3.

Redshirt junior Kai Benedict also displayed an encouraging performance, finishing in 52nd place with a time of 24:38.9. Benedict has gradually been returning to form, as shown in his leadership of the Bears at the Capital Cross Challenge earlier this season.

Generally, the men’s team completed the race in a satisfactory manner, making a significant comeback during the final 2K loop, revealing the significance of head coach Shayla Houlihan’s training — running 10K’s instead of 8K’s. The Bears were well prepared for the final stage.

“The biggest challenge in this race was staying focused, even when we were down. We did a great job of that,” Peck said. “With 2K to go, I think we were in last, so to beat two teams and finish where we did was a very strong finish and really proved we could keep our heads on straight.”

The women secured an 11th-place finish out of 12 teams competing. Sophomore Annie Boos and freshman Marea Zlatunich were expected to lead the women’s team, and they delivered. The women’s side featured 103 runners, and Cal’s star runners managed to clinch 45th- and 48th-place finishes with times of 21:15.1 and 21:19.5, respectively.

There was a notable gap between them and the next Bear to finish the race — sophomore Meredith Corda earned 66th place with a time of 21:40.5. Ultimately, the women’s squad reflected the team’s trust in developing its youth — five out of 10 runners were freshmen.

This year’s Pac-12 Championships also possessed an exceptional aura of sorrow. Utah sported black armbands with patches that included the outline of a heart and the initials “LM,” in remembrance of recently deceased Ute runner Lauren McCluskey. Cal cross country had previously expressed condolences via Twitter after the news of her passing broke.

Cal will now turn its attention to preparing for the NCAA West Regional, which is coming up fast in Sacramento on Friday, Nov. 9. The Pac-12 Championships have shown the Bears’ growth and tenacity while under the pressure of elite competition — because if you’re able to compete in the Pac-12 for cross country, you’re able to compete with any team in the country.

Stephanie Le covers cross country. Contact her at [email protected].