This ending wasn’t the one Cal cross country was hoping for — it’s about one week too premature and indubitably one competition fewer than anticipated.
Last Friday, the Bears trekked to the Haggin Oaks golf course in Sacramento to compete against opposing schools for coveted national championship spots. Despite a combination of strong performances and considerable growth in skill and experience at the event, the Bears discovered the next day that they were unable to secure team qualifications for Saturday’s NCAA nationals in Wisconsin.
That said, the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Track and Field and Cross Country Committee also announced good news for the Bears: Graduate student and consistent star of the season Garrett Corcoran secured a spot as an individual.
Thirty-eight individuals, who all finished in the top 25 of their respective regions, were either selected through automatic qualification or given at-large spots based on head-to-head wins obtained throughout the season in additional to their performances at regional competitions. Corcoran finished in sixth place at Haggins Oaks with a time of 29:46.3 in the men’s 10K — just behind the first-place time of 29:42.4 that was achieved by the University of Portland’s Nick Hauger.
Throughout the 10K, Corcoran was always a contender for first place, managing to remain in the leading pack or, at times, leading it altogether. At last year’s regionals, Corcoran qualified for nationals after posting a 15th-place finish with a time of 29:51.41. His vast improvement in leadership and finishing this year sees him being rewarded for the successful strides he’s taken in training.
“Garrett’s performance tells us that he’s 100 percent ready to go for a top spot at nationals,” said Cal head coach Shayla Houlihan. “He was very strong and fearless for most of the race. The little setback (by injuries) earlier in the semester probably helped him. He trains hard, and it’s hard to pull him back. Being held back pushed him harder and may have been a blessing in disguise.”
The men’s team finished the 10K in eighth place as the highest-ranked teams in the west snagged top-four finishes. After 1 mile in the race, Cal was positioned in 13th place and climbed to 11th after 3.1 miles. At the 5.2 mile mark, the Bears climbed again to eighth place, which is where they stood when all was said and done. After Corcoran, redshirt junior Paul Zeiss clocked in at 44th place and redshirt sophomore Andrew Burkhardt snagged 51st.
Although the women’s side showed signs of potential and consistency, it experienced the opposite progress. The Bears finished the 6K race in 13th place after being in 11th place after 1 mile and 12th place after 2.5 miles. Sophomore Annie Boos led Cal once again with a 41st-place finish while redshirt sophomore Ariane Arndt impressed at 53rd.
Only the top two teams from each of the nine regional competitions qualify automatically for nationals. Thirteen more squads are decided with at-large spots. Cal fell into neither category.
“The biggest thing they walked away knowing was that they gave 100 percent. We’re probably somewhere in the top 30,” Houlihan said. “It’s nice to know and remind ourselves we’re a really good team. To get out of the west region, though, you have to run really strong at the end.”
Cal’s season of growth and transition ended in a quiet manner, but Corcoran will end his Cal racing career with the honor of representing the Bears at Saturday’s nationals in Wisconsin.
Stephanie Le covers cross country. Contact her at