Bears go full tilt in Florida

photo of Cal women's cross country
Phillip Downey /Senior Staff

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For their final race before the Pac-12 Championships, the Bears flew out to Tallahassee, Florida, to take on a strong field at Pre-Nationals.

Pre-Nationals serves as an opportunity for cross country teams from around the country to scope out the course at which NCAA Championships will take place. As such, it brings out some of the nation’s most imposing programs as they look ahead to November.

Cal cross country’s experience at Pre-Nationals, which featured some promising performances from underclassmen in particular, will serve the team well as it approaches Pac-12 Championships.

Sophomore Garrett MacQuiddy led the pack in the men’s race, traversing the 8k course in 24:41 and placing 16th overall. When the collegiate track and cross country seasons overlapped in spring 2021, MacQuiddy opted to pursue the former with a focus on the 800m.

MacQuiddy’s range is proving to be tremendous: The sophomore went sub-1:50 in the 800m last spring, and has been one of the Bears’ first two finishers in two out of three meets so far this cross country season.

Fellow sophomores Carrick Denker and Cole Sawires Yager were next to cross the line for Cal, and earned top-50 overall finishes for themselves. Senior Colin FitzGerald and sophomore Gabe Abbes rounded out the scoring for the blue and gold.

Ultimately, the men claimed 8th place in a field of 31 teams competing in the men’s open race.

The women’s team, meanwhile, was led by senior Mina Anglero in her season debut. While it was just her first race of this fall, Anglero is an experienced competitor at the collegiate level. In fact, she was the Bears’ top finisher at the 2019 Pac-12 Cross Country Championships and NCAA Division I West Region Championships. At Pre-Nationals, she posted a time of 22:07 en route to a 46th place individual finish.

Anglero was followed by fellow senior Jessica Nye, sophomore Piper Wilson, senior Meredith Corda and junior Kalinda Reynolds.

Wilson has been making massive contributions to the team in just her first season of collegiate racing. She’s been the Bears’ third finisher in all three of their races so far, providing much-needed consistency to a team that’s had a great deal of roster turnover since its last full season.

In a field of 29, the women’s team took 16th place.

After a pair of races that Cal treated as workouts, Pre-Nationals provided an opportunity for the blue and gold to race at full tilt against a fierce gallery of opponents. With the stiff competition that the Bears will be up against at Pac-12 Championships, exposure to this level of competition was necessary.

Four men’s teams in the Pac-12 (Stanford, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) are ranked within the top 13 of the NCAA DI Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll, and three Pac-12 women’s teams (Colorado, Washington and Stanford) occupy the top nine national spots. With that level of competition on the horizon as the blue and gold approach the postseason, this weekend’s trip to Tallahassee will prove fruitful.

As Cal sets its sights on races with higher stakes, it will apply the valuable experience it gained at Pre-Nationals. And, with consistent performances from their underclassmen, the Bears have reason for optimism as they look ahead.

Ethan Moutes covers cross country. Contact him at [email protected].