Tritons perform in meet at Oregon

UCSD men’s and women’s cross country, fielding two youthful squads, finished 19th and 16th, respectively, at the Willamette University Invitational at Bush’s Pasture Park in Salem, Ore. The largest collegiate cross country meet in the West featured the largest field of participants in its 28-year history, boasting over 1,000 runners.

Guardian file photo

The meet was divided into different races for Division I and non-Division I teams, the latter of which included two nationally-ranked teams for both Division II and III in the men’s race, including the 22nd-ranked Tritons. Three nationally-ranked Division II squads were also represented for the women, one of which was the 12th-ranked UCSD.

According to head coach Ted Van Arsdale, UCSD was split into “”A”” and “”B”” teams of 20 runners each based on their performances in early-season time trials. The teams then alternate competitions. At this past Saturday’s meet, the “”B”” teams competed with a roster predominantly of freshmen.

“”They were very brave,”” Van Arsdale said. “”It’s been a process — we put them in a Division I meet with UC Irvine right after our first meet of the year against Point Loma. All of them had to step up. We kind of hardened them early to the caliber of competition. I thought that they showed no concern for athletes not on their team — they were aggressive and they showed the skills we’ve prepared them with.””

On the men’s side, Triton Eric Nilsen finished the 8,000-meter course in 80th place out of over 366 runners, with a time of 26:05.24. Teammates Tov Fisher-Kirshner, Richey Hansen and Samuel Miller followed in 99th, 121st and 126th, respectively. Aaron Stonestrom was close behind in 127th place, and Steven Chen and Aaron Buttery followed at 134th and 261st, respectively.

A runner receives the same number of points as his or her place finish, with the exception of those runners who run unattached and therefore do not factor into the team competition. They do not receive a point total, and the points they earn are shifted down to the next eligible runner. The team’s point total is calculated by totaling the points of its top five runners.

The Triton men finished with 508 total points, but it was Division II’s sixth-ranked Chico State that ran away with the competition, placing five of their seven runners in the top 15 and finishing with 42 points. Eastern Oregon and Willamette battled for second place, with the former coming out on top at 95 to 97.

Leading the Triton women was freshman Michelle DiMeo, who finished the 5,000-meter course in 50th place with a time of 18:52.42. Following DiMeo was fellow Triton Kara Cross, whose 18:57.90 was good enough for 59th place overall in a field of 319 runners. Rounding out the UCSD field was Jennifer Turk in 104th, Caren Jordan in 106th, Emily Vala-Haynes in 134th, Stephanie Marton in 135th and Kate Branson in 140th place.

Northwest College, placing its top five runners in the top 25, handily beat out the 35-team field with 48 points. Chico State followed Northwest with 84 points, and Azusa Pacific took third with 160 points. The Triton women finished with 427 points.

After opening the season with a home dual meet against Point Loma, the Tritons have competed in five consecutive road meets, including one in Minnesota last week. The traveling will come to a halt in the coming two weeks, however, with the Tritons competing at the UCSD Triton Classic on Oct. 12 and the UCSD Alumni 5K on Oct. 19, the final two tune-ups before the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships at Cal State Bakersfield on Oct. 26.

“”[The Triton Classic] is about as big as I really see [the team] being able to handle,”” Van Arsdale said. “”It’s going to be everything that our team needs in order to make the next step in their training progression. We’re getting to the point where we need to take our best racers forward.””

The Triton Classic is a crucial meet because UCSD will compete with its entire roster, and the participating teams’ performances will determine which squads will compete at conference championships and beyond, if they should advance. According to Van Arsdale, the bar is set higher this season than last year, when the women advanced to the National Collegiate Athletic Association West Regional and the men finished 15th at the NCAA National Championships.

“”[We expect] that they raise [expectations] just like they did this past week — without fear,”” Van Arsdale said. “”As far as where they’re going to place, can both teams be top three? Yes, for sure. But you’re only as good as your last race, so we’ll see for this week.””