Cal up for the challenge at Capital Cross Challenge invitational

UC Davis Stump Invite/Courtesy

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The Cal cross country team is poised to continue its hot start at the Capital Cross Challenge invitational at Haggin Oaks Golf Club in Sacramento.

Saturday’s invitational will be the team’s first real race of the season, and top runners are aiming to run together in a pack. This race is unique from the previous two invites in that it’s a bigger field with more teams and more competition.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UC Davis are among the rival teams Cal will run against at this invite. Cal’s first-place victories for both men’s and women’s cross country teams at the University of San Francisco Invitational earlier in the season lead to high expectations for this weekend, and the many underclassmen on the roster are predicted to bring the team success.

The top six runners on the men’s team last year have all graduated, and what the team is lacking in depth they will make up for in new underclassmen talent. This might be a rebuilding year for the men’s team despite their hot start to the season.

The women’s team has the depth they need, and this is evident in their first and second place wins at the previous two invitationals.

Mina Anglero, a redshirt sophomore from Oslo, Norway, won her first ever race two weeks ago at the UC Davis invite.

“She’s a talent that has never run cross country before, but we’re helping her learn the ropes. This will be the next step up to see how she can compete in a bigger field,” said assistant coach Chas Davis.

“We’re testing some new things out, we’re going to try some strategies we have yet to test that we think could work well for the bigger races. We’ll see how it works but we don’t want to take too many risks.”

The team is going to make sure not to exert all their effort on this one race in preparation for the bigger races coming up. Coaches have instructed the team to take the first two-thirds of the race at a more controlled pace and then pick it up for the final third and hopefully bring in a victory.

Seasoned junior Annie Boos is a top runner to look out for. She brings her leadership and experience to the team and is expected to do well at the invite.

“Our team culture this year is a lot stronger than it has been in the past, everyone’s very motivated to do what we want to accomplish,” Boos said.

Freshman Cassy Haskell, sophomore Colin FitzGerald, junior Ben Harper and graduate student Andrew Cooper are other top runners to watch for on the course.

Haskell is a freshman the coaches have high expectations for. She’s been performing well during practices and is ready to take her training to the course. Ben Harper is a true walk-on who was added to the roster last season. He was the top man at the first invite of the year.

“This season is more of an egalitarian approach,” FitzGerald said. The team is trying to incorporate new strategies into their team dynamic and hope to make significant gains with these new techniques.

The invitational will take place Saturday, and to get there the team doesn’t have to travel far from home. Sacramento is only an hour-long bus ride away, and luckily the weather on Saturday is predicted to be much cooler than the scorching 90-degree heat the Bay Area experienced earlier this week.

Mia Horne covers cross country. Contact her at [email protected].