On Nov. 11, Cal cross country concluded its 2022 season at the NCAA West Regional Championships in Washington — amid cloudy skies, muddy conditions and an exceptionally young team.
Stanford, the reigning western regional champion, snagged the winning title in the men’s 10k race. The Cardinal saw four runners in the top 10, with Pac-12 title champion, Charles Hicks, finishing in third place. The home team, University of Washington, finished in third place, with senior Brian Fay earning the individual title.
The Cal men’s team finished in the latter half of the race, in 21st place — a perhaps foreseeable placement given the team’s last-place finish at the Pac-12 championships. The men were unable to place a runner within the top 100.
Senior Ethan Bersley was the first Bear to cross the finish line in 30:42.5 with a 106th place finish — ending the season and his time at Cal with a personal best. Bersley put his collegiate running experience to the test Friday, shaving almost four minutes off of his finish at last year’s west regionals, where he ran in 34:30.2.
“Our strategy going into Friday’s race — and pretty much all of our races — is always to run as a pack and try to have all our runners really close together,” Bersley said. “On Friday, I feel like we executed that pretty well: We got out in a pack. There are always ways we could improve upon in the race … some of that comes from more training and harder workouts.”
Behind Bersley was junior Carrick Denker, who crossed the finish line with a personal record of 30:54.8. Underclassmen Landen Lee, John Sesteaga and Rowan FitzGerald were next to finish for the Bears. These young cubs seemed to have found their place amongst the pack this season.
“We have a very young team going into our next season, I am the only one graduating. Everyone else is returning, so with more practice running together everyday (and) more competitions together, that pack-running will improve,” Bersley said.
The women’s squad found itself in a similar placement to the men’s team with a 23rd place finish. Coming out of the Pac-12 championships, the Bears were once again able to outrace Arizona State, which placed 27th. Redshirt junior Kaylee Mitchell of Oregon State was the individual title winner. Mitchell made history for the Beavers, leading the team to its best finish at West Regionals.
Fortunately for Cal, the women’s squad was able to place one runner in the top 100. Freshman Georgia McCorkle was the first runner donning blue and gold to cross the finish line, earning 100th place. Milliseconds behind McCorkle was junior Claire Yerby, who achieved a personal best of 20:57.5. Three other Bears — Natalie Weiner, Emilie Barrett and Kalinda Reynolds — also raced personal bests.
After a hard-fought season against some of the nation’s best, Friday’s race marked the closing — and opening — of chapters for many Bears.
“I love all the guys on the team. They have a lot of talent and they have a lot of dedication to this program. I am really excited to see where they go in the future,” Bersley said. “We were a bit rough around the edges this season, but that is to be expected given (that) they are all very young.”
With such a young pack, fans can anticipate these new cubs to continue their stride and momentum into the 2023 season. Although the cross country season may be over, fans do not have to wait long to see the Bears back in competition, as some of the runners will be competing in the spring track and field season.