Friday was bittersweet for the Bears, as the NCAA Western Regionals marked the end of their racing season. Washington was the end of the road for Cal this time, but the Bears always have next year.
Neither the men’s nor women’s teams were able to qualify for nationals, but with a competitive tournament pool, the results were unpredictable.
The Cal women’s team placed 12th out of 35 teams, ranked behind UCLA by only a single point.
“We were hoping to do a little better, but you can’t really take into account how the other teams are going to do, just because it was so competitive this year,” said junior Annie Boos.
The Western region is filled with Pac-12 teams and other nationally ranked teams from all over the West. Because there were so many competitive runners on the course, it limited the women’s pack-running strategy and they were separated from each other for parts of the race.
“We got out really well at the beginning and placed ourselves in a good position to start the race. We took a risk, because we had nothing to lose. We sucked it up and took the risk,” Boos said.
Redshirt sophomore Mina Anglero placed 22nd with a time of 20:33.2, ending her incredible first cross country season with a strong personal finish despite falling short of her goals.
“Mina just missed qualifying for nationals. Any other year, in the place she finished in she would have qualified individually,” Boos said.
Following Anglero, redshirt sophomore Brie Oakley finished with a time of 20:57.4. This was only Oakley’s second race of the season, making it doubly impressive that she was the second woman to finish from Cal.
Coaches from Cal have been avoiding putting too much pressure on Oakley, as she was a national champion in high school and many fans of the Bears had high expectations for her going into the season. Her strong finish to the season brings hope for next year’s season.
“The region was a lot more competitive than years in the past, which was a good thing and a bad thing. Obviously it’s more competitive so it’s harder to place well, but we were surrounded by a lot of good runners so it allowed us to get (personal records),” Boos said.
The Cal men’s team placed 18th out of 28 teams, a result to be expected with a team so young and inexperienced at running a 10K. Sophomore Colin FitzGerald placed first on Cal’s team, with a time of 31:13.0. Redshirt junior Ben Harper was second from Cal with a time of 31:35.3.
The pack time for the men’s team wasn’t as close together as it was at the Pac-12 championships, probably because of how many more runners there were on the Regionals course Friday. The men were able to beat Arizona State by a landslide, proving that their results from the Pac-12 race hold up in an even bigger field.
The course went mostly as expected, but the cold weather caught the Bears off guard.
“It was really cold. It’s the one thing that sticks in my head,” Boos said.
As this chapter in Cal cross country ends, a new one opens as the team recruits for next year’s season. Many of the cross country runners will participate in track and field, giving them more opportunities to stand out and earn personal records in the spring.
Mia Horne covers cross country. Contact her at [email protected].