A 2,000-mile trip could not stop the men’s cross country team from earning another team victory while the women’s placed second overall.
“Overall they ran about where we would like them to be right now,” coach Wes Ashford said.
For the third time this season, men’s cross country placed first overall with junior Eamon Smythe leading the way for the Broncos in third place with a time of 25 minutes, 35 seconds. Freshman Tristan Sylva and sophomore Jeremiah Suzara joined Smythe in the top 10.
According to Smythe, the team was a part of the front pack from the beginning and his focus was to maintain his position for as long as possible.
Early on, Smythe sat in fourth and fifth place and was able to keep that position through the muddy patches of the course.
“When the mud came it was just pick up my cadence, try to make a shorter step, not really try to push forward until we got past the mud sections,” Smythe said. “Once there was a dry spell I just try to lengthen out my stride and try to pick up pace again.”
Senior Anahi Betart was the top finisher for the women’s team placing sixth overall with a time of 22:50.5. After wining the Redlands Invitational on Sept. 1, the team had not managed a top-three finish since.
On Saturday, the women finished only behind Indianapolis. Junior Elizabeth Hernandez placed ninth overall with a time of 23:25.6.
At the start of the race, the team let athletes from other schools run in front of them to block the wind from affecting Cal Poly Pomona’s runners. According to Betart, at one of the muddy sections of the course she veered left while most of her competitors went right. From there, Betart was part of a lead group of five runners.
After the first loop of the course, Betart fell away from the front and the pack of five separated, making it difficult for Betart to run through the wind.
“It didn’t show in our results within our times that we did better but I think just mentally it was a lot better for everyone,” Betart said.
The Festival Year Fiasco was hosted by University of Southern Illinois in Evansville, Indiana and was the last race of the regular season for Cal Poly Pomona. The race allowed CPP to compete against teams from outside the west region and bolster its case for qualifying for NCAA Division II Championships.
For instance, if CPP finishes better in this meet than a team that is ranked similarly in its region at the end of the year, CPP would be given a spot at nationals between the two teams.
“We’re really not going to know how this plays out till the end of the year, but you’ve got to take the chance like this and go race out of region and hopefully do well and beat some teams that are pretty high quality,” Ashford said.
The top three teams from each region earn automatic berths for nationals plus a number of at-large bids. Another reason for racing out of state is the opportunity for CPP’s athletes to experience a different type of course from the ones they are used to in California. According to Ashford, while courses in California are on golf courses or at parks, the course in Evansville was just a “plowed field.”
The conditions were not as bad as they sometimes are this time of year in Indiana, but rain on Friday made the course muddy in places and forced the team to run in spikes.
“The footing’s a little bit more uneven and it’s a lot more wide open than what we’re accustomed to,” Ashford said. “We don’t get chances like that in California too often to run in difficult weather conditions.”
Cross country next competes at the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships in San Bernardino on Nov. 3.
Oct. 27, 2018, 1:17 p.m.: We made a correction to the University of Southern Illinois’ name.