Cross country off to a fast start

    Quickly following up on the momentum, the men finished second among 11 teams while the Triton women placed fifth out of 11 at the UC Irvine Invitational in Huntington Beachís Central Park on Sept. 6. At the 59th Annual Aztec Cross Country Invitational at Balboa Park on Sept. 13, the men finished sixth among eight teams while the Triton women placed ninth out of 14, with the debilitating heat and exhaustion sapping some off the Triton strength.

    In front of the rest: Senior Neil Kalra lead the team at the UC Irvine Invitational with a 10th place finish.

    The team has high expectations to run to the best of their abilities to enable steady progress.

    ìThe team is to be serious with academics and athletics and we are definitely ahead of schedule with our running,î head coach Ted Van Arsdale said.

    The first meet of the year, a grueling four-mile menís race, saw the Triton men in close-knit formation, taking on the top finisher, Sea Lion senior Ryan Burnett. Despite the fact that Burnett managed to finish first for his fourth consecutive year, nine consecutive Tritons followed close on his heels, ensuring a strong finish for the team. This teamwork enabled the Tritons to win by the identical score from last year, 20-43.

    Following Burnettís first place time of 22:03.3 were Triton seniors Julian Nahan (22:22.7) and Eric Nilsen (22:23.9), who came in second and third, respectively, with sophomore Chris Beetley-Hagler (22:33.4), senior Richey Hansen (22:39.8) and freshman Steve Vargas (22:42.6) also scoring points. Nahan was also notable for his somewhat surprising ability to acclimate back to the top of the cross country pack after a year in physical rehabilitation.

    ìThe men were very solid and ran in a close pack,î Van Arsdale said.

    The triangular womenís race saw Jasmine Marks of Point Loma Nazarene complete the 2.5-mile course in 15:26.3 to lead all competitors. The second place position went to UCSD freshman Tina Firouz, running 15:40.0. To conserve their strength, the Tritons did not have every top female runner compete at the meet.

    ìWe rested five of our top 10 girls,î Van Arsdale said.

    UCSD sophomore Bailey Kennedy crossed the line in fifth place, clocking in at 16:05.1, shadowing Crystal Tarazi (15:48.9) and Jessica Howard (15:56.0), who were third and fourth for the Sea Lions. Joy Dahlberg (16:06.2) and Lauren Quinn (16:12.1) rounded out the PLNU scorers in sixth and seventh, while Triton seniors Kathy Read (16:12.3), Amanda Felder (16:13.0) and Lillian Gardiner (16:15.5) made up the eighth through 10th spots to score points for the home side.

    The final team score had Point Loma Nazarene leading with 21 points, UCSD respectably second, acquiring 34 points and Grossmont last with 83.

    UCSD returned to action the next Saturday when both the men and women competed well at the UC Irvine Invitational. The UC San Diego menís cross country team took second place among 11 teams while the Triton women placed fifth out of 11 at the UC Irvine Invitational in Huntington Beachís Central Park on Sept. 6.

    Senior Neil Kalra, an All-Region runner in 2002, paced the Tritonsí runner-up effort, crossing the finish line in the 8,000-meter menís race in 10th place in 25:36.5 with junior newcomer Robert Eap trailing him in 12th place in 25:52.4.

    ìKalra identified his role-running as hard as possible for the benefit of the team,î Van Arsdale said.

    Accumulating 82 points, UCSD captured second place, beating out CCAA rival Cal Poly Pomona (95), which was third, as well as Division I foes Southern Utah, host UC Irvine, Cal State Northridge, Loyola Marymount and New Mexico State. Obed Muntana (24:57.1) of Central Arizona was the first of 99 competitors to complete the course, with the University of Arizona accumulating 47 points to take team first-place honors.

    The list of UCSD runners of the day included Triton scorers John Morrison (17th, 26:08.3), Nahan (20th, 26:23.1) and sophomore Carl Lostrom, just four seconds behind at 23rd place with a time of 26:27.9. Seniors Richey Hansen (36th, 26:46.3), Eric Nilsen (37th, 26:48.1) and John Burke (53rd, 27:34.2) were also important to the team’s success.

    On the womenís side, standout Firouz led the way for the Tritonsí fifth-place finish, coming in 14th, covering the 5,000-meter course in 19 minutes, 35.4 seconds. Arizona scored 45 points to win the team event on the womenís side as well, with Rachael Cuellar of New Mexico State racing 18:39.2 to take top individual honors.

    ìFirouz is a front runner and she is very impressive and quite mature in her acceptance of collegiate competition,î Van Arsdale said.

    Division I schools Southern Utah (60), Cal State Northridge (85) and UC Irvine (86) all beat out UCSD, but the Tritons, with an ample 126 points, topped CCAA opponents Cal Poly Pomona and Sonoma State, as well as finishing ahead of several Division I schools, such as UNLV, New Mexico State and Loyola Marymount.

    Rounding out the top finishers for the Triton women were junior Lindsay Stalker (22nd, 19:49.8), sophomore Michelle DiMeo (26th, 20:00.0) and seniors Amanda Felder (30th, 20:10.8) and Katie Bunker (39th, 20:31.2), all of whom also scored points for the Tritons.

    Senior Kathy Read (40th, 20:32.9), sophomores Nina Miller (43rd, 20:40.1)and Lindsey Young (50th, 20:54.4), senior Julie Pope (51st, 20:56.0), and sophomores Kate Branson (54th, 21:03.4, Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS) and Meghan Bellotti (62nd, 21:18.8) composed the balance of the UCSD racers entered in the event. A total of 107 women competed.

    The UCSD cross country squads competed the following Saturday, Sept. 13 at the San Diego State Invitational. The third major meet of the season saw the UCSD men finish sixth among eight teams, while the Triton women placed ninth out of 14 at the 59th Annual Aztec Cross Country Invitational at Balboa Park.

    The dizzying heat, training and competition took an impact on both teams, but the team still exhibited great teamwork.

    ìThe women up front competed well, but the guys ran tired and it was very hot,î Van Arsdale said.

    Northern Arizona University won both the Invitational Division team events as well as provided the individual winners in both the menís and womenís races event, which was hosted by San Diego State. Travis Laird of the fifth-ranked menís team ran 25:13 over 8,000 meters while Johanna Nilsson of the 10th-ranked womenís team raced 5000 meters in 17:58 to win their respective races. The Lumberjacks edged UCLA in both team events.

    Powerful performances by Triton men permeated the day. For the Triton men, ranked 12th in Division II, Eap, a transfer out of City College of San Francisco, ran 26:14 to secure a 10th-place finish.

    Morrison came in 28th in a time of 27:04 while sophomore Carl Lostrom (45th, 27:42), freshman Steve Vargas (50th, 28:03), senior Henry Líesperance (55th, 28:12) and sophomore Kevin Ray (78th, 29:23) rounded out a six-man Triton contingent which produced 157 points. A total of 89 runners participated.

    On the other hand, the Triton women, rated 16th nationally in Division II, accrued 236 points to overwhelm California Collegiate Athletic Association rivals Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State L.A. and Cal State San Bernardino.

    Stalker was the lead performer with a 25th-place effort in 19:24. Finishing 46th and 50th, respectively, was Lindsey Young, who ran 19:57 and fellow sophomore Bailey Kennedy running an even 20:00. Senior Lillian Gardiner (62nd, 20:15), sophomore Erin OíDonnell (64th, 20:16), senior Julie Pope (67th, 20:19) and freshman Brenda Stevens (73rd, 20:42) comprised the rest of the top seven for UCSD.

    Runners Young and Kennedy were singled out by Van Arsdale for their particularly solid improvement so far this season.

    ìYoung and Kennedy made phenomenal improvement; Young ran a minute faster than last year and Kennedy also made an incredible jump in her time,î Van Arsdale said.

    The remainder of the Tritons among the 125 total competitors included sophomores Meghan Bellotti (77th, 20:49) and Mimi Hodgins (89th, 21:13), junior Jennifer Turk (90th, 21:14) and sophomore Kate Branson (92nd, 21:31).

    The UCSD cross country teams will now take a well-deserved week off before heading north to the Bay Area on Saturday, Sept. 27, and competing in the Stanford Invitational, where the team plans to run at least seven of its top racers to garner the best results against an army of worthy opponents.

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