Cal Poly Pomona’s cross country teams competed in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships hosted by CPP at Cucamonga-Guasti Regional Park in Ontario, California. Both the men and women placed second overall in their respective races and both teams had two runners finish in the top 15 individually.
The first race of the day was the men’s 8,000-meter race where CPP placed second overall. The Broncos got off to a good start and were leading after the first time 2,000 meters. However, at the midpoint of the race the field was stretched and only two Broncos were able to stay toward the front. Senior runner Mark Huizar led all Broncos for most of the race, running as high as third at one point.
In the last lap of the course, junior Christian Rodriguez was able to overtake Huizar and finish 10th overall with a time of 24:51. Huizar did finish in the top 15, placing 11th overall.
“I was just battling to stay within the pack,” said Rodriguez. “I saw my teammate Mark up there, my motivation was to catch up to him. I just kept moving my way up.”
Despite the second place finish, Rodriguez and distance coach Wes Ashford did feel the men fell short of their potential.
“I don’t think we performed as well as we could have,” said Rodriguez.
“It was not what I expected on the guys side,” said Ashford. “I expected a little bit better performance overall as a team, I don’t think they ran well at all.”
CPP’s women’s team matched the men’s finish by placing second in the 6,000-meter race. From the outset, senior Calene Morris and junior Lorraine Fernandez were the Broncos’ top performers. They both finished in the top 15 with Morris leading all Broncos in 11th place with a time of 22:10.
“We got out pretty well as a team, that’s something we’ve been working on all season,” said Morris. “We were really trying to focus on staying in the moment and staying connected to each other, so keeping those gaps as small as we could.”
Throughout the race CPP’s runners stayed in groups of two or three.
“It really helped that a lot of the girls had connections with each other,” said Morris. “So Lorraine and I were together, that was really helpful to continue moving up and keeping each other active in the race.”
As hosts, CPP supported their runners with the school’s pep band and members of The Herd fan group.
“Having all the support of the school, teammates, other athletes and alumni was fantastic,” said Morris. “I think it makes all of our hearts smile just to have everybody here supporting us. When you’re out there in a race and you’re dying and you have fans cheering for you it makes all the difference.”
In two weeks, both teams will be in Billings, Montana competing in the NCAA West Region Championships. The race is significant because the top five men’s teams and top six women’s teams move on to compete in the Division II National Championships in Saint Leo, Florida on Nov. 19.
The men are looking to improve on what they felt was a less than satisfying performance.
“I’m not quite sure what happened today,” said Ashford. “I think they’ll bounce back and have good performance at the regional meet.”
“Nationals and regionals is what our main focus is,” said Rodriguez. “We’re just going to stay focused and working hard, and we’ll be coming back strong.”
The women have finished first or second in their last three meets and hope to continue that in Billings.
“We’re so excited,” said Morris. “We’re so focused, not on regionals but making it to nationals, so of course that will play out how we race at regionals but we’re focused on making it count.”
David Wilson / The Poly Post
The Broncos in a group huddle before competing in the championships