Despite Cal Poly capturing the Big West conference title in both the men’s and women’s competition, Cal State Fullerton cross-country kept them on their toes by pressuring them throughout the race.
Head coach John Elders was impressed with what Cal Poly was able to achieve, and is looking forward to the NCAA West Regionals where CSUF will compete with them again.
“Just came a little bit short, but Cal Poly crushed it today. They really, really ran well, and we ran well. We have to accept it and move forward,” Elders said.
It was a historic day for the cross-country program as a whole, with new school records being attained at Carbon Canyon Regional Park on Saturday.
The women came in second place with a combined time of 1:49.42 , which is their best group finish in Cal State Fullerton history.
Both the Mustangs and the Titans were favorites heading in, as they were the only Big West representatives that are regionally ranked clubs in the west region, as voted on by Division I coaches, according to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The Titans were led by junior Samantha Huerta, who finished in second place in the 6K run with a time of 21:26.5. Her finish ruined Cal Poly’s hope of sweeping the podium.
“I know I just gave it all I had. What I love about this sport is that it’s definitely a sport of heart. You could be super talented, but if you have more heart, it definitely prevails,” Huerta said.
It was a close call at the finish line, as the top three runners finished within 3.6 seconds of each other. Huerta edged out Cal Poly’s Katie Izzo by two-tenths of a second for the runner-up spot.
Four Titans finished in the top 10, which is the most in the school’s history during the conference championships, Elders said.
Meanwhile, the men’s side finished in third place for the third-consecutive season, trailing behind Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara.
They were able to accomplish this despite a few roadblocks. Sophomore Jacob Smith had to drop out of the race as he was unable to continue due to exhaustion.
Senior Samuel Pimentel was the Titans’ top finisher, posting a time of 25:02.2 during the 8K race. However, shortly after Pimentel crossed the finish line, he collapsed and suffered a seizure.
He responded to treatment, Elders said.
Pimentel has been a vital member on the team as he has been Fullerton’s top finisher in every race he has competed in this season.
Junior Jorge Sanchez, who set his new personal best (25:06.5) by almost nine seconds at the conference championship course, likes the progress he sees from his teammates.
“Every year we want to keep improving. It’s better than going backwards,” Sanchez said.
The Titans resume their hunt for a national championship title when they trek north to Sacramento for the NCAA West Regionals on Friday, Nov. 9.