By Silas Hood, Aug. 30, 2022

The Cal Poly Pomona Men’s Cross Country team stride into the new year with strong comradery, training and coaches at their back. Leading the group is Chris Bradford, recipient of the 2022 California Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Coach of the Year award, looking to build off the success of the prior season.

Bradford joined the program six years ago with 14 prior years of coaching experience- eight of which were head coach…

“Cal Poly Pomona has always had a strong cross-country program,” said Bradford, when asked why he chose to join CPP.

He added, “Being in Southern California, an area that we can recruit well in, there are a lot of talented kids in the area. The opportunity at Cal Poly Pomona to grow into a National Championship level team was really it.”

Courtesy of CPP Athletics

Last year’s season marked the team’s return after the pandemic, placing second in the CCAA, third in the West regionals and 30th in the country from which they aim to grow beyond in the season ahead.

“We did not have a 2021 season at all, and we got cut halfway through our track season in 2020, so from March 2020 through Aug. 2021 we weren’t together,” said Bradford.

He continued, “Last year was rebuilding the team, the culture, the way we do things and the competitiveness … this year I think we need to take that to the next level. The groundwork is there and now it’s about maximizing what we have here.”

This year’s squad of runners has a unique characteristic with 16 of the 20-man roster consisting of returning Broncos: all top 10 runners from last year, along with six redshirt athletes. To have everyone return usually does not happen and with 19 slated returning runners for 2023-24 a special opportunity arises for three full years of roster consistency and chemistry.

One advantage in addition to prolonged training with Bradford, senior runner Vincent Sarino shared, is the strengthened comradery among teammates.

“I think it is a beautiful thing to have people to lean on because we have a really talented team who really care about each other,” said Sarino. “I look around and I see a family, I see a brotherhood, a team of people who truly care about each other and love each other and even though I am a veteran in a way, I am still learning … because I feel like we all have something to bring to the table.”

Following last year’s experiences, the team looks to prove a strong and competitive performance during the 2022-23 season among themselves. Previous redshirt and new runner Ricardo Vargas hopes to push his fellow teammates with his own success.

“I feel I can bring the results that might be needed to keep pushing each and every one,” said Vargas. “They saw me last year, and everybody was beating me last year and fast-forward a year, and I am running with them or beating them. If they are not doing everything they can, or if they are not fully bought in, then they’re going to see that.”

With their first meet on Sept. 3 at Redlands, the team is ready to set the pace for the season ahead. After rigorous, independent summer training and three weeks of practice preceding the event, Bradford looks forward to seeing his team’s pacing, communication, harmony and execution of race plans.

While the first competition’s results will not determine a place in nationals, for Bradford, it is the team’s time to define the season ahead of them.

“What we try to do is be consistent throughout the year,” said Bradford. “It’s not like this is an easy race or a tough race. We’re out there to work every single week.”

He added, “On paper, Sept. 3 at Redlands doesn’t really matter towards going to nationals or not at the end of the year, but it does by what we present … to set the standard for how things are going to lead.”

Feature Image by CPP Athletics.

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