If someone had told me a year ago that I would be covering an invitational involving Cal cross country that was taking place the very same day as a track and field indoor meet, I wouldn’t have believed them.
The concept that Cal cross country and track and field will be competing simultaneously is one that wouldn’t make sense outside the context of a pandemic. The two sports not only share distance runners but also have an overlap in coaches that makes it logistically challenging to hold the two events at the same time.
On this double-booked Feb. 19, separate Bears cohorts will be traveling to Tucson, Arizona, and Colorado Springs, Colorado, to compete at two distinct invitationals. The blue and gold’s cross country team will take on the Dave Murray Invitational in Arizona, while the track and field team will travel to Colorado to compete at the second Air Force invitational of the indoor season.
Because of the scheduling conflict, distance runners have not been training with the Bears’ track and field team this indoor season, instead devoting their efforts to the abbreviated cross country season.
Cal’s cross country team has been fortunate enough to resume in-person practices. Bobby Lockhart, head cross country coach and assistant distance and mid-distance coach for the track and field team, has been working with the Bears in preparation for the Dave Murray Invitational for the past few weeks.
“I’m just happy to be back training since basically the start of COVID,” Lockhart said. “To get the team back together in January after 10 months of talking on the phone and through spreadsheets has been nice.”
The Dave Murray Invitational is one of two in-person competitions the blue and gold will have the chance to compete at this season, a far cry from the seven races Cal attended in fall 2019. It’s also the only opportunity the Bears will have to prepare for the upcoming Pac-12 cross country championships March 5.
Even though other teams Cal will face will have had more opportunities to test their in-person abilities based on changing regulations among universities, Lockhart isn’t worried about his team’s ability to perform against other schools more accustomed to competing this season.
“I understand that different universities have different protocols, but we’re not too concerned with what other people have or haven’t done,” Lockhart said. “We’re just focusing on ourselves and where we are.”
The blue and gold have been waiting for their chance to compete ever since the 2019 cross country season ended. Feb. 19 will reveal what kind of progress they’ve been able to make this past year and will give an indication of how the team will perform at the Pac-12 championships.
Lockhart is confident in his team’s ability to succeed at the Dave Murray Invitational but isn’t putting too much pressure on the outcome. He views the race as more of an opportunity to gauge where the team is and evaluate what it needs to work on heading into the Pac-12 championships.
“As far as the end result, we’re not thinking about that,” Lockhart said. “We’ll see what it is when we get there. We’re concerned with the preparation of getting back into meets, competing, wearing a uniform and getting back in the routine.”
After the Dave Murray Invitational, the Bears will have just a few weeks before the conclusion of the season at the Pac-12 championships. In the past, this meet has been one of the most important moments of the season, and this year is no exception, as it is the only chance Cal will have to compete before battling fierce Pac-12 foes in its season’s conclusion.
Mia Horne covers track and field and cross country. Contact her at [email protected]