STANFORD, Calif. - The Saint Mary's
men's and women's cross country team's headed to the Stanford Golf
Course today to compete at the NCAA West Region Cross Country
Championships. The race showcased a solid majority of the most talented teams
and individuals in the country. The Saint Mary's men showed major
improvement over the 10k distance from a year ago when the race was hosted
by the Oregon at a similar golf course. The Gaels improved their team time
from last season by a staggering 6:06 margin.
"We had some fun today. A few guys
could have gone faster and struggled a bit but to average over a minute
better per runner in just a year is very good. Our team is going in the right
direction. I'll take a six minute improvement any day of the week,"
said head coach Marty Kinsey.
Leading the way for the Gaels, as he
did all season, was sophomore Rajpaul Pannu. Pannu finished the race in 31:12
(89th) and would crush the previous Saint Mary's 10k record (set last season)
by 42 seconds. Pannu had quite the season, breaking several school records
along the way. "Raj is a beast. He's soft spoken and humble but,
when the gun goes off, he has this fire that doesn't quit. I'm glad we have two
more years with him. He's a leader who has a desire to get better and a bigger
desire to get this team better," said Kinsey.
Next up for the Gaels was freshman
standout Nick Ellingson (149th). Ellingson crossed the line in
32:52, claiming the fastest time ever for a Gael freshman and fourth on
the all-time SMC list. Following Ellingson, was redshirt junior and
team captain James Hayes (154th) finishing in 33:16, just over a full minute
improvement from a year ago. Jordan Lerma (165th), who
struggled a bit, managed to put his solid summer training to use and finish in
a new personal best 34:36, an even two minute improvement from a year ago.
Freshman Marc Klunk (168th) closed hard in his first 10k for
35:30 and senior Mark Blucher (170th) finished off his impressive
Gael career in 35:58.
"All in all, it was a great ending to
a much improved season. We are poised to do great things in the coming years
and the foundation these guys have started to build is solid. I couldn't be
happier with how everything is working out for this team," said Kinsey.
On the women's side, the
lady Gaels saw a "mixed bag" of results. Freshman Cristina Garcia led
the team, once again, for her first NCAA race. Garcia finished in 168th place
clocking in at 23:10. "Cristy has a bright future ahead of her once we can
get a solid block of healthy training under her legs. The inevitable problem
with young runners is organizing a training plan that fits a new lifestyle. We
just have to hit the reset button," said associate head coach Mark
Following Garcia was
sophomore Alicia Doohan (179th) in 23:27 and redshirt junior Maria Ahlqvist
(188th) in 23:43. The fourth Gael across the finish line was senior Natalie
Sojka in her final race with a Saint Mary's jersey. Sojka battled a slow
start to finish in 23:53, good for 189th place. Rounding out the scoring was
junior Elizandra Obando in 192nd place (23:56) and junior Erin Burke in 196th
place (24:03), a ten second lifetime PR.
"For the second year
in a row (and second time in school history), we had five women in the
23-minute range or better at an NCAA race. That's a solid foundation to build
from considering we only lose one athlete to graduation. This doesn't
mean we can be complacent, however. We're going to start increasing base
mileage considerably for the women, recruit heavily, and shoot for a strong
spring season. We're excited to see this new mindset of "work hard,
win easy" take form," said Carberry.
Stanford and the Portland
captured the NCAA automatic bids on the men's side. Arizona freshman Lawi
Lalang took home the individual honors in 28:34. Washington and Arizona
took home the women's NCAA automatic bids. Oregon All-American Jordan
Hasay took first overall in 19:44.