Cross country runs around competition

    As the UCSD cross country season begins, head coach Ted Van Arsdale looks at both his men’s and women’s teams and sees a mirror image: Last year’s experienced women’s team has been infused with freshmen while his once-young men’s team has matured into an adept group of runners.

    Guardian File Photo

    “”The dynamics of the men and women this year are different,”” Van Arsdale said. “”The women are like the men last year. There are a lot of new faces; about two-thirds of them are new runners.””

    The leadership for this year’s inexperienced women’s team will come from team captain Audrey Sung. A junior out of Phoenix, Sung has been the No. 1 runner for the team. Junior Mary Peate and sophomore Julie Pope, the other top returnees for the Tritons, have been sidelined so far this year and have not participated in any races.

    “”We’re just waiting for the right time [for the return of Pope and Peate],”” Van Arsdale said. “”It’s going to be a year of patient development. We are looking to the returnees to be pillars of performance.””

    Sung ran a 19:10.5 in the UC Irvine Invitational to place 16th in a field crowded with runners from Division I scholarship programs.

    The women’s team will also be seeking some strong performances from its first-year runners, and according to Van Arsdale, freshman Lindsay Stalker has “”made her presence quite evident”” by posting the second-quickest individual time for the Tritons in their dual meet against Point Loma Nazarene University. This placed her seventh behind Sung, who came in first in front of six PLNU runners. She also finished 74th overall in the UC Irvine Invitational.

    Other impressive freshmen who have caught Van Arsdale’s eye are Lindsey Young and Erin Richards, who placed 92nd and 104th, respectively, out of 145 runners in the UC Irvine Invitational.

    “”They’re coming along extremely well,”” Van Arsdale said.

    On the men’s side, the team that improved in leaps and bounds last year to finish third in the CCAA Championship has started off strong this year.

    “”All 18 runners from last year now have experience and are showing it,”” Van Arsdale said.

    Despite losing star runner James Nielsen to graduation, team captain Stephen Martin and top returnees David Dunbar and Alan Shapiro have picked up the slack and led the Tritons to a victory over PLNU as well as a sixth-place finish out of 16 total teams in the UC Irvine Invitational.

    “”We really don’t have one strong guy like last year,”” Martin said. “”We just have a bunch of good runners.””

    Van Arsdale credits their depth as a key to their success this year.

    “”The tightness between [the No. 1 runner] and [the No. 15 runner] is very condensed,”” he said. “”The level of experience has made a big difference. They have proved talent and experience make a difference. Next year we’ll be at an even better level.””

    Martin agreed that last year helped the UCSD team gain perspective.

    “”Last year we had a very young team,”” Martin said. “”More experience and strength training over the summer [has made the difference this year]. We increased the volume and intensity since we’re a little stronger this year.””

    However, despite their depth, the men’s cross country team is still looking for freshmen to contribute to the team.

    “”First-year [runners] can be definite impact runners,”” Van Arsdale said. “”We have very talented guys. We’ll see changes as we go along in our competitive squad.””

    Freshmen Luke Sigmon and Tov Fisher-Kirshner have been particularly impressive so far this season, with Sigmon placing 66th out of 132 runners in the UC Irvine Invitational and sixth out of 30 runners in the victory over Point Loma. Fisher-Kirshner finished 89th in the UC Irvine Invitational.

    Both the men’s and women’s teams expect to see stiff competition in UC Davis and Chico State, two traditional cross country powerhouses.

    “”UC Davis has proven to be the top [men’s] team the last couple of years,”” Van Arsdale said. “”But this year they were just beat by Chico.””

    Martin agrees that Chico State and UC Davis will be tough.

    “”[They] are the only teams that can give us a run for our money — especially Chico this year,”” he said. “”[But] we have the advantage of home course [for the CCAA championship] this year.””

    Both Van Arsdale and Martin are happy with the men’s performances so far.

    “”We have a really good aerobic base,”” Martin said. “”Everyone has goals and dreams and ambitions, as well as a more positive attitude.””

    “”[Both the men and women] placed extremely well, given their amount of experience,”” Van Arsdale said. “”Those are big scholarship programs [in the UC Irvine Invitational]. We attacked the course extremely well as individuals as well as a team.””

    Still, Martin and Van Arsdale say there is room for improvement.

    “”[I think we need to work on] closing gaps between runners, specifically the second and third runners, as well as running as a pack,”” Martin said.

    Van Arsdale also sees room for even more improvement.

    “”Will they do better in a few weeks? Yeah,”” he said.

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