Everyone has good days and everyone has bad days. Only Friday — when both men’s and women’s races have finished and the runners are cooling down from an intense, nationally televised spectacle — will it be clear what kind of day Cal cross country has had. Assistant distance coach Chas Davis lists the team’s options as follows: an okay day, a good day or a very good day.
This system of measurement for how the day will go seems rudimentary, but the Bears are far enough into the season that they are laser-focused on beating as many Pac-12 teams as possible. The team means business as they prepare for this weekend’s Pac-12 championship in Monmouth, Oregon — and are ready to place above as many teams as they can.
According to Davis, the women on Cal’s cross country team will have “a very good day if they place sixth”
The Bears’ goal is to beat Pac-12 teams, five of which are ranked in the top 25. No. 2 Stanford and No. 3 Washington are among some of the other nationally ranked teams attending this event. The men are hoping to finish before Pac-12 rivals Arizona and Arizona State.
“An okay day is ninth place, a good day is eighth, and a very good day is seventh,” Davis said of the men’s team.
On the women’s side, 12 sponsored schools will be racing the Ash Creek Preserve course. For the men’s team, there will be only nine sponsored schools running the course. This course is the first dedicated cross country course to host the Pac-12 championships, but the Bears have no past experience with Ash Creek. Luckily for Cal, the course should have wide turns and flatter terrain than some of the previous courses it has competed on this season.
There will be about half of the runners on the course than have been in past races, making it easier for the team to focus on pack running. Cal will be running 10 women and eight men at the race, but only the top five from each team will score.
“We’re not going to take the reins completely off, but they are very comfortable racing together as a pack. Pack time is something we evaluate a lot. The time between our first runner in and our fifth runner in — that will reflect how our team does,” Davis explained.
If season trends continue, sophomore Mina Anglero is expected to take first place out of the women on Cal’s team. Junior Annie Boos and sophomore Marea Zlatunich are also predicted to follow behind her closely and take second and third place for Cal.
The team is eagerly anticipating the return of sophomore Brie Oakley. She will be part of the women’s 10-runner team at this weekend’s race, and due to complications from injuries and other challenges, this will be her first race of the season. In high school, Oakley was the national champion and record holder for the two-mile race.
“We don’t expect (Davis) to lead the team, but she can definitely impact our score,” Davis said.
Junior Ben Harper, sophomore Colin Fitzgerald, and junior Steven Khan have been interchangeable in placing top-three on the men’s team in the past, and are predicted to have strong races Friday.
Sophomore Shane Bissell is another runner to keep an eye on.
“It’s difficult to compare race times because courses are so different, but objectively looking at it, Shane has dropped a minute off of every race he ran this year. He’s coming on really strong at the right time,” Davis said.
Regardless of what kind of day Friday turns out to be, it will definitely be one for the books.
Mia Horne covers cross country. Contact her at [email protected].