Like most things that occur during a pandemic, the 2021 spring cross country season has been filled with uncertainty. And as fast as it started, the season is almost over. The thrill of in-person competition has been short-lived, and opportunities for Cal cross country to reap the benefits of its hard work have been few.
The Pac-12 Championships on March 5 is the second and final race of the season. The Dave Murray Invitational was the only opportunity the Bears had to prepare for the tough competition they’ll be up against in University Place, Washington; but regardless of the brevity of the season, the blue and gold will bring their all to the course.
The Dave Murray Invitational on Feb. 19 gave the team a good precedent for where its training has taken it and helped Cal return to a competitive mindset in anticipation of the high-stakes Pac-12 Championships.
“There were three other Pac-12 teams we competed with for this race, so it was good to see where we’re at in comparison with them,” said senior Annie Boos. “Now we know how much more we can push ourselves. Other than that, Pac-12 will feel a lot more foerign than it usually does.”
The University of Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA are all teams that the blue and gold competed against in Tucson and will face once again in Washington. All three teams have had the opportunity to participate in one more cross country race than Cal had, including the Arizona Invitational where the schools were given a chance to compete against each other in a smaller setting.
Boos appreciates the Dave Murray Invitational because of how it prepared her for the upcoming Pac-12 Championships and acknowledges that the Bears’ results will look different when three of the runners who were missing at the Dave Murray invite return for the Championships.
“Our only goal was to stick together and finish the race and get a baseline of where we’re at,” Boos said. “I was proud of our motivation because we were all really nervous. It was a good start for the season considering we were missing one of our three strongest runners, but they’ll be back for Pac-12.”
Aside from Boos, some of the other talented Bears who made an impact at the Dave Murray Invitational and will return to competition March 5 include senior Steven Khan, who placed third at the Dave Murray Invitational, and senior Ben Harper, who placed sixth in the men’s 8k. Sophomore Sara Osterberg achieved a top-10 finish, an impressive accomplishment for an underclassman facing off against Pac-12 competition.
Predicting the results of the Pac-12 Championships is an impossible feat considering how much time has passed since the Pac-12 teams have all competed in the same race. Last season, the Cal women’s team notched a 9th place finish out of 12 teams while the men finished 7th out of 9 competing teams. The outcome of this season’s Pac-12 race is anyone’s guess, but the blue and gold are sure to showcase an impressive performance based on the momentum they’ve built so far.