This early in the season, finishing first is not the priority for cross country. There will be races that will matter more later in the season as the calendar turns to November and December. That said, winning is still winning and the men’s cross country team made it two wins in a row on Saturday.
After winning the opening race of the season three weeks ago in Redlands, the men placed first overall this weekend in the Coyote Challenge held at Cal State San Bernardino. Three Broncos placed in the top 10, led by junior Alejandro Ambrosio, who finished fifth overall with a time of 25 minutes and 16.9 seconds. Ambrosio placed first overall in Redlands.
“I think it went well,” Associate Head Coach Wes Ashford said. “Our main priority is to run fast at the end of the year, so we’re just working on some things and trying to encourage everybody to run together as a pack.”
Freshman Diego Arriola and sophomore Jeremiah Suzara followed Ambrosio in sixth and seventh place, respectively.
As in Redlands, the goal for the team was to run as close together for as long possible rather than looking to one athlete to run away from the pack.
“We kind of did that at Redlands but I think we executed it better today,” Suzara said. “We all finished within 15-20 seconds from each other.”
According to Suzara, the team tried to get a group of Cal Poly Pomona athletes near the front of the pack.
Despite not being at the front of the pack, enough Broncos stayed near the front to keep their point total down.
Even with the group improving in running as a team, Suzara pinpointed the last half mile as the area that needs improvement in how close the team runs together.
“We can improve on trying to close the gap between our first guy and last guy,” Suzara said.
The women placed fifth overall with junior Elizabeth Hernandez placing highest for CPP in 25th with a time of 18:35.6. Two- tenths behind Hernandez was teammate and senior Anahi Betart.
According to Betart, the team executed the game plan of running closer together better this week compared to the meet at Redlands.
“This time was a lot better,” Betart said. “We had all of the girls with us within the first mile.”
Betart compared that start to three weeks ago in Redlands where a couple of athletes pushed the pace and pulled away from the rest of the team early on.
The course itself was an improvement from the course at Redlands, which Betart described as “unstable.” Betart felt the team had an advantage on San Bernardino’s flatter course because the grass the team practices on at CPP is thicker and harder to run through.
Along with a difference in the course from Redlands, there were considerably more athletes competing on Saturday compared to three weeks ago. Over 100 athletes competed in each race, making it more difficult to maneuver as stay together as a team.
“It definitely is intimidating just seeing a whole bunch of girls even just from the start line,” Betart said. “We just needed to focus on each other as a team and just work off of each other rather than worrying about what the girl to the left or right of you is going to do.”
The team will be returning to CSUSB on Nov. 3 for the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships.
In the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Poll, released on Sept. 19, the women’s team moved up four places to 14th in the nation and remained fourth in the west region.
The men moved up one spot in the national rankings to 24th in the country and remained fifth overall in the region.
The important ranking for qualifying for the NCAA Division II Championships in December, held in Pittsburgh, is the regional rankings.
The top three teams in each region earn an automatic invite to the race. Teams outside the top three in their region need an at-large bid to qualify.
This Saturday, the team will be in Sacramento for the Capital Cross Challenge.
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