On Oct. 28, Cal cross country raced in the highly anticipated Pac-12 cross country championships. The Bears ran on the UCR Agricultural Operations Course passing citrus groves and irrigation canals while battling elevation change and a total of twenty seven turns on the course.
Cal was outmatched by their Pac-12 opponents with the men’s squad placing last in ninth place and the women’s team placing 10th out of 12 teams, beating out Arizona State and USC.
Once again, Claire Yerby was the first Bear to cross the finish line in 21:05.8 and in 69th place. This season Yerby has continued to prove herself as a leader on the women’s team and a competitor on the course. Next to finish was Cal freshman Georgia McCorkle who took 74th place.
Emilie Barrett and Lucy Hurt both set personal bests coming in 80th and 83rd place respectively.
Despite Cal’s unfortunate finish, the women’s 6k proved to be a thrilling race— in fact the closest women’s finish in Pac-12 history. Emily Covert and Bailey Herenstein of Colorado led the pack. Herenstein took the title finishing in 19:11.3— beating the course record of 19:12.6.
At the finish, the Buffs and Utes were tied with 66 points. Following the NCAA tiebreaker, Colorado took the Pac-12 title for the second year in a row.
The men’s 8k race was also disappointing for the Bears who finished last. Junior Gabriel Abbes was the first Bear to finish in 56th place with a time of 25:06.4. Not far behind Abbes, was Cal sophomore Landon Lee in 60th place. Rowan FitzGerlad, John Sesteaga, and Garrett MacQuiddy were next to finish in 63rd, 64th, and 66th place respectively.
“The race execution did not go as planned unfortunately,” said Abbes. “For us we just packed a little too far in the back and I think that was our main difficulty. Our race strategy was executed, but at a wrong position in the race.”
Notwithstanding the team’s finish, Abbes exhibited his prowess as an experienced runner. He shaved off over a minute from his finish at last year’s Pac-12 championships where he posted a 26:09.9. Abbes also improved from his run on the UCR course earlier this season where he finished in 25:39.6. Abbes contributes part of his individual success on Friday to his teammates.
“I was a minute faster this year and I think it was due to the fact that I just wanted to run for the team and run for the boys,” said Abbes. “I think that was a fortunate thing for me as well because I was able to run beyond myself.”
During the race, Abbes and Lee ran as a pack and supported one another on the course.
“During the race when you are running by somebody and they are your teammate sometimes you have little conversations. You are breathing your lungs out and you are saying ‘hey let’s go,’ ‘stay with me,’ or ‘I need your help, push me,’” said Abbes. “Landon (Lee) and I had those conservations during this race for a few parts in and I think it helped us both.”
Last season, Abbes was battling a hamstring injury. This season, he has been focused on listening to his body and bouncing back. On Oct. 28, Abbes seemed to overcome his hardships, continuing to improve his game.
“I have had two years of trials and difficulties with my running performance coming off of my freshman year. I have been fortunate to have a good experience yesterday and I hope for more as the season comes to an end with regionals,” said Abbes.
Unfortunately for Cal, the Cardinal outraced the Bears with Stanford taking first place. Stanford runner Charles Hicks took first place with five other Stanford runners placing in the top ten. Colorado, last year’s champions, finished in second place.
Although Friday’s race was not the finish Cal was hoping for, the team’s individual successes this season coupled with their youth hints towards a promising future. This Friday was the first Pac-12 championships for many Bears — not to mention in one of the toughest cross country conferences in the nation. The underclassmen on the team, guided by veteran leaders, proved their grit on the course.
Cal will have another chance to showcase their skill in two weeks at the NCAA West Regional championships in Seattle, Washington. The Bears will once again be put to the test against the entire West.
The blue and gold will hope to work up the ranks and find themselves in a better placement.