Cross Country excels at UC Riverside Invite

By Christian Cataldo

The Cal Poly Pomona men’s cross country team is coming off a strong year in which it placed 16th at Nationals, and junior Mark Huizar posted the school’s fastest time in over 20 years for the 10K at regionals with a time of 31:39.2.

Huizar was named the California Collegiate Athletic Association Runner of the Week the first week of the season, leading things off on a great start.

The Broncos were pleased with their performances last season, but the team felt it did not accomplish all it could have..

“We were happy with what we did last year, [but] we thought we left a little bit on the table,” said Head CoachOctavious Gillespie-Bennett. “We didn’t have a great race at nationals, [and] I think that made the guys a little bit hungry for this year.”

Senior Francisco Gomez believes the team was going through a development process last season

“I feel like last year, the team was still developing. The whole goal was getting to nationals, learning how to run at nationals and now I feel like the team is capable,” said Gomez.

The team came out strong to start the season: it went into the UC Riverside invitational and ranked 10th nationally. HuizarandGomezexcelled for the Green and Gold, placing at positions 4 and 5. Their times of 24:12.1 and 24:12.6 put them in the CPP record books, as both times were the two fastest ran for an 8K distance in the program’s history.

“The team has experience under their belt,” said Gomez. “I feel like it’s going to be a better season.”

Gillespie-Bennett talked about the expectations he has for the team this season.

“We’re looking to win a conference title,” said Gillespie-Bennett. “We’re always looking to win a conference title, but right now we have a very good chance we have a strong, returning crew, and they have a goal. One of the things about cross country is if you have a goal, it helps you train over the summer, [and] it makes a big difference [in] how your year is going to go. These guys came in ready for this year.”

The women’s cross-country team also began its season with a strong showing. It finished second at the UC Riverside invitational.

Going back to last season, the team performed well at the conference race at the end of the year, but the team felt like it underperformed at regionals.

Gillespie-Bennett talked about the women’s team and its year last season.

“They didn’t have a great regional championship. They actually, I think, underperformed a little bit, and they know that,” said Gillespie-Bennett. “I think that really helped a lot of the girls get motivated over the summer.”

The Broncos excelled at the UC Riverside invitation, finishing with 76 points, only trailing the University of Arkansas. Nickles finished the 5K distance run in fifth place with a time of 17:37.6. The time also made Nickles the owner of the third fastest 5K time in program history.

With such a strong showing early on, Gillespie-Bennett talked about his expectations for the season.

“This year we have some new girls that came in, and we look really strong right now,” said Gillespie-Bennett. “It’s going to be a tough region to get out of this year because we have a lot of good teams in our region, but our girls look like they’re well on their way if they just have the confidence, race the way they need to race and if they’re competitive. I think they have a very good shot at making nationals.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams will look to continue their strong start to the season at their next meet at Stanford University, on Saturday for the Stanford Invitational.

Mark Huizar

Courtesy of Hayden Yi / The Poly Post

Mark Huizar

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