Cal Poly Pomona’s cross country teams headed up to Sacramento last weekend for the Division II National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships and ended their season on a high note.
The women’s team finished in 27th place among 34 teams on Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Arcade Creek XC Course.
The women’s team scored 661 points, and the men’s team secured 16th place out of 34 teams.
The women’s cross country team was led by senior Elizabeth Hernandez who crossed the 6-kilometer course finish line with a time of 21 minutes and 29.6 seconds, securing 82nd place out of 261 runners.
After finishing the first mile in 166th place, Hernandez paced herself and passed 84 competitors to seize her final position in the race.
“Overall, I felt like my performance was pretty good,” Hernandez said. “The time wasn’t really what I wanted, (and) the goal was top 40, (but) I fell a little bit shy of that. I can’t really complain. This is the best I’ve done at nationals.”
Hernandez ran her third-career NCAA Championship meet on this year’s women’s cross country team.
“It meant a lot to me to finish first for the squad,” Hernandez said. “When I went (to nationals) my freshman year, I don’t even remember where I finished, maybe fifth or sixth. But, to go from possibly not scoring to being the top scorer and being a solid contender is really awesome. I learned that you got to really take chances and trust your fitness.”
Redshirt junior Araseli Servin placed 129th with a time of 21 minutes and 56.4 seconds with redshirt sophomore Samantha Aguilar trailing behind her in 175th place clocking in at 22 minutes and 28.2 seconds. Freshman Pearl Burton made her way right behind Aguilar and placed 178th with a time of 22 minutes and 29.5 seconds and sophomore Elli Kliewer rounded up the top-five scoring Broncos in 178th (22:48.4). Sophomore Luz Garcia finished in 226th (23:12.2) and freshman Britney Solis crossed the line with a time of 23:24.6 in 229th.
The women progressively improved their team standing throughout the 6K course after being in 31st place through the first mile before climbing up to 26th and eventually finishing 27th overall.
This was the fifth all-time appearance for the Broncos on the women’s side in the NCAA Championships, and the third time in the last four years.
The men’s 10-kilometer race started about an hour after the women’s race concluded.
The leaders took the race out in speedy fashion, clocking four minutes and 30 seconds for the first mile. Redshirt freshman Vincent Sarino was 91st at the mile mark, but worked his way down to 62nd out of 263 runners in his 10K debut. Sarino finished with a time of 31 minutes and 8.6 seconds locking him in as the top CPP finisher of the day.
“Going in (to the race), I wasn’t really worried about where I was place-wise, I just wanted to give it the best that I could. But, afterwards, it was kind of surreal,” Sarino said. “I’m just glad that we were all able to finish the race at the end and give it our best.”
Senior Eamon Smythe was behind Sarino and took 70th with a time of 31 minutes and 12.7 seconds. Freshman Diego Duran came in 112th with a time of 31 minutes and 40.7 seconds. Senior Alejandro Ambrosio crossed the finish line at 31 minutes 56.3 seconds to place 138th.
Together, the men’s team finished 16th out of 34 teams and scored 475 points.
The men’s team improved drastically from last year’s 25th place finish at nationals in Pittsburgh. This is the 21st all-time appearance for the men at the NCAA Championships and the Broncos have finished in 16th place or better 19 times.
Head coach Christopher Bradford was more than pleased about the teams’ performance.
Bradford also praised Hernandez’s and Sarino’s performances due to all the hard work that they’ve put in. “I’m really proud of (Hernandez) for ending her last career on a high note,” Bradford said.
Bradford was at a loss for words on how Sarino stepped up the way he did. He reflected on how amazing he did and said “Vincent’s race was the highlight of our day.”
“I’m really proud of them,” Bradford said. “National meets are the top of the mountain and it’s amazing competition. We had some things not go our way with some injuries, but we also had some people step up and do great things. I’m really proud of the fight in our group. The season ends, but moving forward, going into the future we are really setting ourselves up to do some special things.”