Cross country opened its season with both teams placing first over the weekend at the Redlands Invitational.
“Overall, we executed our game plan pretty well,” Associate Head Coach Wes Ashford said. “We got some things we need to work on, but overall I’m very pleased with the way that they ran.”
On the men’s side junior, Alejandro Ambrosio placed first overall with a time of 19 minutes and 9.5 seconds. Ambrosio transferred from Glendale Community College and finished four seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
“I felt really good and I went for it and I just kept pushing the pace,” Ambrosio said.
According to Ambrosio, the team ran as a “pack” most of the race until he felt he could push the pace.
The decision for who in the pack pushes the pace depends on the condition of the individual runners.
Ambrosio described listening to the breathing of his teammates during the race and judging his own stamina as part of his decision to try to run ahead of the pack.
Team scores in cross country are determined by the place each member of the team finishes with the lowest score deciding the winner.
The men placed three athletes in the top five and five in the top 10. Sophomore Jeremiah Suzara and freshman Diego Arriola placed third and fourth respectively.
With more important races coming later in the schedule, the team is looking to get as many athletes running as close together during a race for as long as possible.
“As the season continues, we’re hoping to close the gap on each other and hopefully run closer together,” Ambrosio said.
The women’s team also placed first overall, with junior Elizabeth Hernandez leading the way in fourth place with a time of 17:07.6. The Broncos placed four athletes in the top ten, including freshman Luz Garcia, who finished sixth overall with a time of 17:09.1 in her first collegiate race.
Garcia went to John H. Frances Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles.
“In high school, I really didn’t have a team, so it really was a new environment for me running with such amazing girls and it’s just really welcoming,” Garcia said.
Like the men’s team, the women’s game plan was to run together for as long as possible.
“I think for the most part we achieved that,” Garcia said.
For Garcia, her focus this season will be to improve on the last lap of the race by maintaining the same pace as in the previous laps.
This early in the season, Ashford’s focus in analyzing the two races is looking at how the teams executed the game plan.
He described the goal as having the athletes “comfortable” racing each other and running together.
The Redlands Invitational course took runners from University of Redlands quad to nearby Sylvan Park.
Ambrosio described the course as “sketchy” in some places with mud causing some Cal Poly Pomona runners to fall. According to Ashford, the course had a lot of “transitions” and “sharp turns.”
“It was a difficult course because of the conditions,” Ashford said. “It’s just something we need to get used to as a team.”
Last week, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced its preseason regional and national rankings for Division II.
In the West Region, the women were ranked No. 4 and the men No. 5. In the national coaches’ poll, the women were ranked 18th in the nation and the men were ranked 25th.
However, Garcia, Ashford and Ambrosio believe it is too early to be worrying about rankings this early in the season.
“We really don’t look at that too much,” Ashford said. “We just try to focus on what we need to do to get better and whatever happens, happens.”
Cross country competes next on Sept. 22 at the Coyote Challenge, hosted by Cal State San Bernardino.
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