NCAA Western Regionals are Friday, and there’s no better way to express how Cal cross country is feeling about the race than putting it in the words of assistant coach Chas Davis.
“Nationals is a long shot, but we can do it,” Davis said.
The Bears are aiming to qualify the women’s team for nationals at this weekend’s race by getting an at-large bid. The team’s goal is to place in the top eight, but it knows getting there won’t be easy. UCLA and Oregon State both beat Cal at the Pac-12 Championships, but Cal might have a shot at out racing these teams this time around.
If the team as a whole doesn’t qualify, the Bears’ hopes of sending a runner to nationals falls on the shoulders of redshirt sophomore Mina Anglero, who has the potential to qualify individually. She’s aiming to place in the top 20 and be one of four individuals not on a qualifying team that will be sent to nationals in two weeks.
The runners on the men’s team know they most likely won’t qualify for nationals. This year is a building year, and with a team so young, the Bears’ expectation is to give this race their all and not get too hung up on the results. They’re hoping to place in the top 15 and beat Arizona and Arizona State like they did in the Pac-12 Championships.
“We’re a young group, and we know we can do great things in the future,” said sophomore Colin Fitzgerald.
After the hype surrounding the Pac-12 championships two weeks ago, the Bears will have to brace themselves for this hugely important race. On top of physically training hard, they also have to be mentally prepared for what’s ahead.
“The biggest challenge is going to be emotionally rebounding from the conference championships,” Davis explained.
Players will be aiming to stay calm going into the race, as mental preparation is key.
“As weird as it sounds, I’m pretty relaxed because I look at this race as a good opportunity to go out and test ourselves. Bobby creates a good atmosphere so we’re excited and want to go out there and compete and give everything we have,” Fitzgerald said.
Each NCAA Division I school in the western region will send seven runners to this race, making it the biggest race the men’s team has seen all season. The women’s team has already experienced a race this size at the NCAA Pre-Nationals in Indiana, but it will still be challenging to keep up its pack running strategy and stick together.
This will also be the first time a lot of men on the team have raced a 10K, adding the additional challenge of enduring the longer distance when compared to the 8K the team is used to running.
The race will be held at the Colfax Golf Club in Washington. Although the team has yet to run on this course, it’s said to be a fair course with wide turns — the only problem with the location might be its unpredictable weather.
“I don’t know what the weather will be like so it might be kind of a shock to us. We just have to mentally prepare and know it affects everyone the same way,” said Fitzgerald.
Cal is filled with optimism heading into Friday, and even if the results aren’t exactly what the teams want, there are always future seasons to make it to nationals.