UCSD runner Tareq Alwafai represented the Tritons at the NCAA national cross-country meet on Nov. 23, breaking the UCSD course record — which Alwafai had set two weeks prior at the NCAA Regionals — and becoming the first Triton to attend the meet in five years.
Alwafai, a sophomore, qualified for nationals at the NCAA Division II West Regionals as an individual racer. His teammates were just shy of qualifying as a team.
“I was pretty nervous because it was a bigger meet, and I didn’t have my team,” Alwafai said, “But I just had to look at it like any other race.”
The top teams and runners in the country made appearances at the meet, which was composed of 32 Division II schools and 246 Division II runners. There were two California Collegiate Athletic Association conference teams in attendance — Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona — as well as individual runners from San Francisco State.
Adams State finished first overall with a score of 54, beating second place Grand Valley State by 50 points. Chico State, who dominated the field during the CCAA and West Regionals meets, finished sixth overall with a score of 242. UCSD’s other conference rival, Cal Poly Pomona, finished eighth with a score of 304.
Individually, junior Tabor Stevens of Adams State took the national championship, finishing the 10 km race in 29:50.1, 11 seconds ahead of second place finisher Vegard Olstad of Western State.
Isaac Chavez of Chico State, finished eighth overall in the final meet of his collegiate cross-country career. Chavez finished with a time of 30:30.1 and was the first CCAA runner to cross the finish line.
Chavez’s teammates Johnny Sanchez and Alfonso Cisneros finished 23rd and 45th respectively, putting up competitive times and helping Chico State finish so high.
Alwafai finished in 100th place with his UCSD course record setting time of 32:15.2, placing ahead of San Francisco State individual runner Bruk Assefa.
“The most important takeaway from today is the experience Tareq gained at the national level,” UCSD head coach Garcia said to the UCSD Athletics Department. “This will be a huge benefit to him moving forward.”
On the women’s side, Grand Valley State won the championship with 54 points followed by Adams State with 91. The Chico State women, like the men, finished in sixth with a score of 242.
Jennifer Agnew, an individual runner from the University of Mary, won the six-kilometer race with a time of 20:50.7. Ayla Granados of Chico State crossed the line in 26th place with a time of 21:39.9.
The national meet, besides giving Alwafai invaluable experience at the highest level of competition, showed that Tritons, whether on their own or as a group, can compete with the top teams in the nation.
“Next year it should be easier to make it to nationals as a team,” Alwafai said.
In 2014, the top six teams at the NCAA West Regionals will qualify for nationals, instead of the top five, as with this season. UCSD earned sixth place at this season’s NCAA West Regionals.
Despite losing valuable assets on both the men’s and women’s teams — including All-CCAA runners Matt Lenehan and Kellen Levy — all four All-West runners return for the next year, ready for another season.