The weather in Tucson, Arizona, was hot and dry, the course consisted of rolling hills and above all else, the Bears hadn’t competed against other teams since fall 2019. In spite of it all, Cal cross country brought home two top-five individual finishes and a second-place team finish in the men’s race to prove that even a hiatus spanning more than a year can’t stop the momentum the program has built.
At the Dave Murray Invitational on Friday, the blue and gold competed in their first race of an unusual and abbreviated season. After months of training through the uncertainty of whether or not the team would be able to make up for the lost fall 2020 season, the Bears finally had an opportunity to showcase their talent and prepare for the upcoming Pac-12 championships on March 5.
Senior Annie Boos placed second out of 37 runners from five competitive teams, including two teams Cal will face off against at the Pac-12 championships. Boos’ performance reveals that even without in-person races, the team was still able to train effectively in preparation for a competitive invitational.
“It was hard to set expectations since we didn’t really have a baseline of fitness besides workouts,” Boos said. “Going into the race, it was a ‘rust buster,’ like my coach likes to call it. Just see what you can do, and we’ll base the rest of our season off of it.”
The feeling of putting your utmost effort into a race is one that can be difficult to simulate outside of the competitive season. After not having competed since fall 2019, the Bears used the Dave Murray Invitational as a benchmark for what the team has accomplished in training since then.
Boos anticipated that the invite would feel slightly foreign but was still surprised by how challenging it was to get back into racing after such a long pause.
“It was a shock,” Boos said. “You always forget about how much pain goes into the race. I was a lot more nervous for this race than I usually am since it’s been so long, but once the gun went off and we started running again, it was a very familiar feeling, and I’m just excited to be able to continue doing it for the rest of the season.”
Boos notched a 6K time of 21:43.5 at the invitational, but her career record in the 6K remains a 20:24.1 from the 2017 Pac-12 championships. The talented senior has the potential to set a new personal record at the upcoming Pac-12 championships.
The men’s team also had an impressive showing, led by senior Steven Khan, who placed third out of the 36 men running the 8K. Khan finished strong with a time of 24:39.8 — a new career best. Along with Khan’s personal record, the Cal men snatched second place as a team.
The Pac-12 championships are the next and final race of the season for the Bears. The Dave Murray Invitational gave the blue and gold a measure for what they need to do in training these next few weeks to prepare for the tough competition in University Place, Washington, and the team has high expectations for how it’ll perform.
Despite the weather and the difficulty of the course, Cal made up for lost time at the Dave Murray Invitational and will continue to do so at the Pac-12 championships, demonstrating the team’s ability to persevere through the difficulties of competing during a pandemic.
Mia Horne covers track and field and cross country. Contact her at [email protected]