SALEM, Ore. -- The Saint Mary’s track program wrapped up a successful second season with another good showing at the West Coast Invite in Salem, Oregon on Saturday.
The meet was established three years ago to create a championship-style meet for the West Coast Conference track teams since the conference does not have a championship. This year, the competition would also include a variety of competitive collegiate programs and clubs.
Saint Mary’s would benefit from the deep fields, establishing new school and personal records.
Highlighting the day for the women was once again freshman Katie Alioto, who would run a savvy 3,000 meter steeplechase race to improve her school record to 11:08.
“Katie’s plan was to be aggressive and not settle in the first part of the race," said Gaels head coach Marty Kinsey. "She not only did that, but was able to move up about five spots on the last couple laps. She beat some good competitors today."
Next up for the men were freshman Zach Hansen and sophomore Gilbert Mundo. Hansen led from the gun and immediately pushed the pace, creating about a five-meter gap on the field. Although passed by two people heading into the bell lap, Hansen would dig deep and put out a huge kick to win the heat and finish with a new personal record of 3:59.
Mundo was in the second heat and found himself right with the leaders. He finished with a strong last lap and a new Saint Mary’s record of 3:54.
“Gilbert has improved drastically in this event," Kinsey said. "He was about a 4:35 miler in high school and this time equates to about 4:11. He ran an even race today and was rewarded with a big lifetime best.”
The women’s 5,000 meter race came next and freshman Taylor Khan would put together one of the best races of her young career. She would finish under the 18-minute barrier for a second time this season, placing second in her heat and stopping the clock at 17:58.
“The race had several paces changes and a lot of movement in the lead pack. Taylor was able to stay patient and work her way up to the front," Kinsey said. "She never let up and had a great finish. Although her time was a few seconds off her PR, she didn’t panic and put her self in a position to race for a top spot in the heat.”
The men’s 5,000 would have similar paces changes for sophomore captain Cormac McCullaugh. He would also respond well, running an excellent time of 15:04 and placing third in his heat.
“Mac did great out there. He was shooting for a faster time, but the paces weren’t there, so like the women’s race he would put himself in a spot to beat some good conference competitors and finish strong," Kinsey said. "Cormac redshirted last cross country season and will be a valuable contributor to the team next fall."
The 2013 season showed rapid improvement for both the men and the women, and after just two years, the SMC track program moves into the summer with plenty of momentum as it continues to build and grow.
“Our men’s team is much deeper and is still very young. We had four guys run in the 14’s for 5 kilometers and a total of 10 run under 15:38," Kinsey said. "Add Gilbert’s 3:54 into the picture and it shows we have a passionate and talented group. Two years ago we only had one or two men even break 16 minutes.”
Kinsey continued, saying “Adding track and building the team culture has been huge. We set high goals and are serious about being the best we can be. We had three women run in the 17’s this season and with Katie’s training she would have been right there, too. Her strong steeple season has given her an edge going into summer training.
"Our overall depth is drastically better and our incoming recruits should have an immediate impact. Each season we finish by saying the future is bright and each year we continue to make huge improvements. It truly is a great time to be a Gael.”
The Gaels only graduate two seniors in Jordan Lerma and women’s team captain Erin Burke, but both will be missed in a number of ways.
“Jordan and Erin are the lone holdovers from their freshman class," Kinsey said. "When I was hired we made a lot of changes. They adapted and improved by minutes in their respective races. They have helped shape what is becoming a successful team. I couldn’t be more proud of them."