Biola University Cross Country Invitational displays GSAC teams before championship
Biola University Cross Country Invitational was held at Irvine Regional Park on Saturday Oct. 23. An impressive field included the top two women’s teams in the country, and the No. 6, 19, 21, and 22 ranked men’s teams.
The top ranked Biola women were impressive as usual. Led by senior Kelsey Gasner’s second place finish in 17:49, the Eagles finished in second place overall, only bested by No. 2 Cal State San Marcos. But the men’s team surprised many, finishing third in the loaded field, ahead of No. 4 Simon Fraser University, No. 19 Concordia, as well as USC.
San Marcos victorious in both races
San Marcos won both races, placing four women in the top 10 of their three-mile race, and three in the top 10 of the men’s five-mile course.
“The race is a good gauge on where we stack up against some of the top teams in the country.” San Marcos head coach Steve Scott said, “It’s hard to compare times because everyone is running different courses, but here we can see what we need to do to stay with a Biola or Simon Fraser.”
Biola women have strong grouping
For Biola’s women, freshman Alexandra Sciarra finished in 18:14, which was 10th overall. Senior Katie Thede finished 12th in 18:15, closely followed by senior Sarah Brooks who took 14th in 18:17, and junior Nychele Fischetti who finished 16th in 18:30.
“We need to close the gaps between one and five, and one and seven,” Gasner said, “Our grouping should be our strong point at GSAC.”
Weather creates interesting environment
The weather was a story by itself. The sky threatened to downpour most of the morning, but most of the rain held off into the afternoon.
“The weather was pretty ideal, having it cooler and overcast.” Brooks said, “It was a little slick on the course and a little muddy, which did make footing hard, but I would say it was good weather for racing.”
It was a unique atmosphere on Saturday, with so many top teams competing just two weeks before conference championships and four weeks before nationals.
“There is certainly a healthy amount of emotional tension in the air as the runners know the significance of the race and their awareness of the teams that are present,” Westmont head coach Russell Smelley said. “Athletes have to handle the tension in a positive manner and getting to see the competition is a good thing.”
Senior men set personal course records
On the men’s side, senior Ryan Richert was the first of three seniors to notch personal course records on Saturday. Richert finished in 25:22, fast enough for sixth overall. Senior Carter Williams ran 26:34 finishing 29th and Senior Evan Thibodeau ran 27:16, finishing 41st in the 109-man field. But Biola’s underclassmen were well represented as well, with sophomore Spencer Lyle finishing 16th in a personal record time of 26:10. Freshman Danny Ledesma was close behind, finishing 18th with a time of 26:16.
“The men did great,” Head coach Jonathan Zimmerman said. “Then again, their training has been great. They are also staying healthy.”
GSAC represented at meet
Combined, seven GSAC teams participated in the race.
“I enjoy the competitive attitude and the friendly relationship the GSAC demonstrates,” Concordia head coach Martin Gonzalez said. “Competing against top GSAC teams so close to the [conference] championships is an excellent meet for Concordia’s cross country program.”
The Eagles go to GSAC Championships in Fresno on Saturday, Nov. 6. The women run at 9 a.m. and the men start at 10 a.m. Then they will finish the season at NAIA National Championships in Vancouver, Wash. on Saturday, Nov. 20. The men’s race is at 10:30 a.m. and the women go at 11:45 a.m.