SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gabe Arias-Sheridan became the first-ever Saint Mary’s cross country runner to qualify for nationals and the SMC women’s team improved by seven places from a year ago on a successful day Friday for the Saint Mary’s men’s and women’s cross country teams at the NCAA West Regional at Haggin Oaks Golf Course.
Arias-Sheridan finished seventh overall in 29 minutes, 54.2 seconds, over the 10-kilometer course Friday to become the first-ever Gael to qualify for the NCAA Division I National Championship meet. The NCAA Championship will be held in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 19.
Learning from his experience at the West Coast Conference championship meet two weeks ago, Arias-Sheridan stayed among the chase pack for the entire race to be in the right position. Arias-Sheridan pushed the pace independently at the WCC Championship and fell back after 5 km. Friday, he was running among the top-20 and continued to pick runners off in the pack, moving up as high as second place before earning a top-10 finish.
“Really honored and excited to be the first Gael to represent SMC at cross country nationals,” said Arias-Sheridan. “It was my goal going into the season. I worked hard in the summer and regular season to put myself in a good position to get there. I owe it to my coaches and teammates. They also helped push me to be the best I could be this year.”
“That guy is an animal,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Marty Kinsey about Arias-Sheridan. “We had a very strong yet simple plan going into this race and he executed that plan absolutely perfectly. Because of all his hard work, dedication and ability to push through, he is now headed to the NCAA Championship as our first qualifier in school history. We still have work to do, thankfully at the national championships. I couldn’t be more happy for him.”
“Kinsey and I talked this pass weekend about what happened at conference and we both knew if I just ran a smarter, good things could happen,” said Arias-Sheridan. “So we put a really good race strategy together and it ended up working, so shout-out to him. The race was an amazing experience to have the opportunity to run with the most talented runners in West. Plain and simple, I am just so honored to have this amazing opportunity.”
The men’s team finished 18th, two places behind their team finish in 2015. Noah McDermott was Saint Mary’s second finisher in 113th place (32:11.9). Edward Chance was the Gaels’ third runner in 131st (32:28.5) .Nolan Dozier finished 139th in his first collegiate 10 km, running 32:37.0. Mason Labadie rounded out the Gaels’ top-five in 142nd place (32:40.9).
“Team-wise the men didn’t have their best showing,” said Kinsey. “We have some work to do this winter to get ready for a great track season because they know they are better than an 18th place finish.”
Abby Bolt led Saint Mary’s to a seven-place improvement from a year ago, as the Gaels defeated the likes of WCC rivals Santa Clara and Pacific while topping Big West Conference members Hawaii, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge, and beating Big Sky Conference members Sacramento State and Portland State. Mountain West Conference members UNLV and San Diego State also fell to the Gaels Friday.
Bolt finished 88th in 21:27.8 over the 6 km course. Haley Dorris backed her up in 116th in 21:49.4. Neylene Leon stepped up to finish as the Gaels’ third runner in 133rd (22:01.8). Hanna English was 150th in 22:17.7 and Allie Timbrell was 161st in 22:24.1.
“The women did an excellent job moving up seven spots from last year,” said Kinsey. I haven’t looked at it yet but it’s probably the most improved team in the region. They ran very well as a team and competed for each other, and it showed.”
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