By Bryan Stauffer
When asked about what he expected to see this year from both the men and women’s cross country teams, fourth-year co-captain John Carrell exuded the type of confidence a veteran leader should have in his team.
“We’re going to surprise a lot of people this year,” said Carrell.
The fourth-year Kinesiology major was not lying.
After their season opening meet at UC Riverside on Sept. 14, which featured two top-15 finishes from both John and brother Ryan Carrell, the Cal Poly Pomona men’s cross country team climbed to No. 25 in the National Coaches Poll for the first time since 2011.
According to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), the Broncos rank fourth among West Region competitors. Chico State sits at No. 4, Alaska Anchorage holds the No. 9 spot and Humboldt State stands at No. 17.
It may come as a surprise to those outside of the program that the cross country team is having success early on, but for the athletes who make up the program, it is something that they have prepared for all summer long.
“Everyone came out this summer training really well and getting the miles in,” said John. “The team’s looking really good this year.”
Aiding John and Ryan Carrell on the men’s side this season will be third-year student Brandon Haugen and new coming fourth-year student Aiden Irish. Haugen is coming off of a strong summer, according to head coach Octavious Gillespie-Bennett, while Irish joins the team as a graduate student.
Assistant coach Wes Ashford said he sees a group of athletes that works hard and sticks together no matter the circumstances.
“I like the packing that we’ve had in our workouts,” said Ashford. “They run together as a group, like they’re friends, and they seem to get along. That always bodes well for good team chemistry.”
One thing Ashford knows the importance of is setting goals and striving to achieve those goals.
“I’ve talked to [the athletes] about their goals and I know they have some pretty lofty goals,” said Ashford. “I’m just here to see if I can help them reach their goals.”
Spearheading the women’s efforts this fall will be Lizette Huerta, a third-year Kinesiology student from Ontario, CA. Huerta, along with seniors Regina Lopez, Jenny McCarthy and Sarah Gulli, will be looked upon to guide the incoming athletes and lead by example.
“[Our experience] is going to be very valuable since we do have a couple new girls,” said Huerta. “It’s a lot different from high school. Our leadership is really going to show to the new girls and it’s going to help them.”
Thelma Cruz, a fourth-year student who competed in her first cross country campaign in 2012, will also play more of an integral role in the Broncos’ plans this season.
Third-year redshirt Annick Ospital-Cone is one of the new faces running for CPP this season. The hospitality management student spent the first two years of her collegiate career running for Cuesta College where she helped guide her team to a fourth-place finish at the state championships, the highest finish in program history.
Gillespie-Bennett is expecting the team to perform up to their championship standards this year given the leadership of its returners and the addition of first-year coach Ashford. Ultimately, CPP’s title aspirations will come down to focus and competitive drive, according to Gillespie-Bennett.
“Sometimes they do all the training and do everything they needed to in practice, but when they got to the races they might not be as focused as they wanted to be,” said Gillespie-Bennett. “They’re going to need to fight and work hard.”
The Broncos will compete in the Cal State San Bernardino Invite on Saturday before gearing up for their annual “Pack The Course” Invite at Pomona Pitzer on Oct. 5.
Courtesy Bronco Athletics
Cross Country: Both Men and Women Poised for Success
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