SANTA ROSA, Calif. -
The UC San Diego cross country teams opened their postseason slate on Saturday, competing in the 2011 California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships at Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa.
The Tritons finished third out of eight teams running in the men's 8k, while UCSD took fourth place in a field of 12 schools competing in the women's 6k race. The Triton men finished third for the second year in a row, while the women moved up one spot after claiming fifth place in Whittier in 2010.
Chico State maintained its current stranglehold of the conference championships, winning both the men's and women's titles for the fourth consecutive year.
"Although we had some very good individual performances, we didn't quite accomplish our team goals this weekend," head coach Nate Garcia said after the conclusion of the day's events. "There was some really good battles out there and we fought hard, but we know we're capable of performing better. It's just a matter of going out and doing it."
The women ran first on Saturday morning and it was sophomore Chia Chang leading the way for UCSD once again. The Yorba Linda native finished seventh overall with a final time of 21:34.8 on the picturesque Spring Lake course, wrapping up roughly 27 seconds off the leader's pace.
Chang finished six spots in front of running mate Michelle Le Roux, who clocked in at 21:56.9 to earn 13th place individually. Chang and Le Roux, who have finished 1-2 for UCSD five times in six races this season, earned spots on the All-CCAA squad by virtue of their top-15 finishes.
Freshman Dani Brabender was the next Triton to finish, coming in at 22:08.8, which was good enough for 18th place. Fellow rookie Alia Bales also had a good day, claiming the 28th spot with a time of 22:35.7. It was an all underclassmen top five as sophomore Ximena Cruz rounded out the scoring with a 37th place time of 22:57.4.
Led by individual winner Alia Gray, Chico State placed all five scorers in the top 12 to easily win its fourth consecutive women's title and eighth conference crown since 2002. Gray was named the CCAA Runner of the Year after breaking the tape at 21:07.1, while the Wildcats' Tiffany Heflin finished 12th overall at 21:53.6 to earn CCAA Freshman of the Year honors.
CSUC finished with 37 points to easily outdistance the rest of the field. Cal Poly Pomona finished second with 98 points, while Cal State L.A. scored 100 to take third. UCSD finished with 103, followed by fifth place Cal State Stanislaus with 107.
"Three of our top five finishers were freshmen and we still finished
five points out of second place," Garcia continued. "At the end of the
day, that's a pretty impressive feat. Dani ran very well closing the gap
to the top two and Michelle was the number two freshman at the meet, so
we were pleased at how well our younger people performed."
Junior Matt Lenehan was the top individual finisher for the Tritons on the men's side, placing 13th overall with a time of 26:32.9 on a Spring Lake course that was a quarter of a mile longer than usual. Lenehan, who has now led UCSD in three consecutive races, represented the Tritons on the 15-member All-CCAA team.
Sophomore Kellen Levy wasn't far behind, leading a pack of four Tritons who finished 20th through 23rd overall. Levy clocked in at 26:44.8, followed by Ben Rich, Jeremy Riley and John Svet, respectively. Rich posted a final time of 26:47.6, while Riley finished in 26:48.6 and Svet came in at 26:54.5.
Chico State's Adrian Sherrod was the top overall finisher in the race, collecting conference Runner of the Year honors with an impressive time of 25:39.0. He was the first of five Wildcats to finish in the top six, with teammates Isaac Chavez (25:39.1), Johnny Sanchez (25:39.8) and Joseph Rivera (25:43.5) finishing second, third and fourth respectively. Sanchez was named the CCAA Newcomer of the Year for his performance.
Chico State was just about as dominant as a team can be on the men's side, finishing with 16 points to run away from the rest of the field and win a 10th consecutive title. The Wildcats finished 51 points in front of second place San Francisco State, while UCSD tallied 84 points to comfortably finish third. Humboldt State was fourth with 109 points and Cal Poly Pomona finished with 130 to round out the top five.
"We knew it was going to be really close with San Francisco State
today," Garcia added. "We got some excellent packing from our guys once
again, but we just came in right behind their pack. We will look to
improve on the back end of the race to flip those results in two weeks."
Chico's Gary Town was once again named CCAA Coach of the Year on both sides as his squads not only swept the team titles, but also claimed six of the eight conference specialty awards.
Garcia and the Tritons will now have two weeks to prepare for the NCAA Division II West Regional Championships, which will be held Saturday, November 5 at Plantes Ferry Regional Park in Spokane, Wash. UCSD has already seen the Plantes Ferry course this season, posting a pair of top seven finishes at the Runners Soul Erik Anderson Invitational there on September 24.