LA JOLLA, Calif. -
The conference converged on North Campus Course during a drizzly Saturday morning for the 2012 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Cross Country Championships where the UC San Diego men's and women's teams placed third and fourth, respectively, while sweeping the Freshman of the Year honors.
"This matches the finish from last year, which you never just want to stay in the same place," said head coach Nate Garcia. "The conference has improved mightily this year. We're really one of the strongest conferences in the country and so we're pleased by the efforts by our group."
For the fifth straight year, Chico State swept the team championships. With respect to the men, they won their 11th consecutive CCAA team title with a score of 23 points to win the championship by 58 points over second-place Humboldt State (81). All five scorers for the Wildcats placed in the top 10 (1-2-5-7-8).
Freshmen Scott Acton and Marie Diaz each earned Freshman of the Year honors for being the top-finishing true freshmen in the men's and women's races, respectively.
Sophomore Tanner Collins led the Tritons in the men's 8k race with a finishing time of 26:16.2 and claimed the final slot on the All-CCAA Team with his 15th-place showing.
Despite the fact that five other teams had at least one runner on their score sheet prior to Collins's finish, the Tritons' third-place team finish was attributed to their tight grouping as four of the next seven finishers were UCSD runners.
Coming in with back-to-back finishes were Acton (26:27.8) and junior Mario Flores (26:31.3), who placed 17th and 18th, respectively. With his time of 26:33.8, freshman Tareq Alwafai took 20th overall and the No. 4 slot for the team.
Battling it out for 22nd place in the race's final stretch were freshman Eddie Carrillo and junior Ryan Woods of San Francisco State. Although Woods was expected to cross the finish ahead of Carrillo initially, Carrillo found just enough strength to surpass Woods to beat him by a tenth of a second and finish with a time of 26:39.3.
"The men particularly ran a real strong race," Garcia said. "They grouped up, we have a real short pack time again and they just put themselves in position to finish well."
The Tritons earned a cumulative score of 82 (13-15-16-18-20) to finish just a point behind Humboldt State for second place, which placed two runners in the top 10 (4-10-19-22-26).
"It's always tough to miss out of a team placing by a point," Flores said. "I feel like we ran tough, we had a pretty good packing throughout. So, the good thing is, in a couple weeks, we'll be back against all these teams and some of the other teams from other schools in the region so we'll get one more chance to get on top of them."
Junior Isaac Chavez of Chico State won the men's race with a time of 25:41.0. Chavez's teammate, junior Alfonso Cisneros, and junior Bruk Assefa of SFSU, crossed the finish line in photo-finish fashion and both were credited with a time of 25:43.8.
"I just tried to work with our team and tried to work as a team altogether in this whole thing," Chavez said. "We did pretty well. We came here to try to take the win again."
UCSD's women in the 6k race were led by Diaz, who placed ninth overall and crossed the finish line at 22:22.0 in her award-winning performance. Diaz became the first Triton runner since Nov. 20, 2010 to finish before junior Chia Chang in a race.
Freshman Carolina Guzman also gave a great effort, placing 22nd overall with a time of 23:01.0. Chang (23:01.4) finished her race in 24th, just 0.4 seconds behind Guzman and ended her streak as UCSD's No. 1 finisher at 10 meets.
"I think that we did not do as well as we thought we would, but we're happy with our effort," Guzman said. "We're just going to try and keep pushing and keep going. Marie's looking stronger than ever so we're real excited about that, and we're going to all pick up and try to stay with her from now on."
Senior Elena Inouye (23:12.6, 30th) and junior Ximena Cruz (23:36.6, 40th) rounded out the score card for UCSD.
"We struggled with some of the individuals again," Garcia said. "We still haven't put together a complete race on the women's side yet. I know that once we do, we're going to beat some good teams that were ahead of us today. Fourth place, it's a bitter pill right now, but we'll get ready for the regional race in a couple weeks."
The Tritons tallied a final score of 115 (9-20-22-27-37), trailing third-place HSU (95) by 20, second-place Cal State Stanislaus (82) by 33 and champion Chico State (35) by 80. The Wildcats placed all of their scorers within the top 15, including four in the top 10 (3-4-6-8-14), to earn their ninth CCAA title overall.
With a late charge in which she passed several runners, senior Bridget Berg of Humboldt State took first in the women's race, finishing with a time of 21:48.5. Berg was followed by senior Tiffany Dinh (21:53.7) of Cal Poly Pomona, who placed second in this meet for the third year in a row, while junior Ayla Granados (21:59.0) of Chico State came in third. Granados earned the CCAA Newcomer of the Year award for her performance.
"It was a really hard race," Berg said. "I tend to do better when I come from behind. I die if I try to start too fast. Everyone did a really good job and I'm really glad with my performance, I'm really pleased and I have lots of good teammates behind me."
The top 15 finishers in each race were named All-CCAA.
The Tritons will wait two weeks before they travel to Hawaii to race on Saturday, Nov. 3 in the NCAA Division II West Regional Championships, hosted by Hawaii Pacific at the Kahuku Golf Course. The men's 10k race will start at 8 a.m. and will be followed by the women's 6k race at 9 a.m.
2012 CCAA Cross Country Championships
Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012
North Campus Course • La Jolla, Calif. (UC San Diego, host)
Men's 8k Race
1. Chico State 23, 2. Humboldt State 81, 3. UC San Diego 82, 4. Cal Poly Pomona 112, 5. San Francisco State 114, 6. Cal State Stanislaus 162, 7. Cal State Monterey Bay 215, 8. Cal State East Bay 229.
CCAA Most Valuable Athlete of the Year: Isaac Chavez, Chico State
CCAA Coach of the Year: Gary Towne, Chico State
CCAA Freshman of the Year: Scott Acton, UC San Diego
CCAA Newcomer of the Year: Aaron Thomas, Chico State
Women's 6k Race
1. Chico State 35, 2. Cal State Stanislaus 82, 3. Humboldt State 95, 4. UC San Diego 115, 5. Cal Poly Pomona 128, 6. Cal State L.A. 137, 7. San Francisco State 189, 8. Cal State San Bernardino 201, 9. Sonoma State 283, 10. Cal State East Bay 290, 11. Cal State Monterey Bay 291.
CCAA Most Valuable Athlete of the Year: Bridget Berg, Humboldt State
CCAA Coach of the Year: Diljeet Dosanjh Taylor, Cal State Stanislaus
CCAA Freshman of the Year: Marie Diaz, UC San Diego
CCAA Newcomer of the Year: Ayla Granados, Chico State