The La Verne cross country teams competed in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships at Pomona-Pitzer’s Strehle Track on Saturday.
The Leopards strived to hit a team average time of 27:15 in order to qualify as a group for the NCAA Regionals. Unfortunately, the squad finished just 15 seconds short with an average time of 27:30.4.
This was the Leopards’ second time tackling the course since the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational last month.
The chilled breeze of the early morning hours was the perfect weather for the teams to perform to their maximum strength.
“If it’s weather like this you’re guaranteed to run really good times,” freshman runner Alex Medina said. “It’s really draining in the hot weather and you’re going to have a hard time running fast.”
The men’s wave began at 8:30 a.m. as junior Matthew Salas lead La Verne with his time of 26:16.8 and placed 26th.
Medina placed 49th overall with his time of 27:01.6 for the Leopards.
The men’s cross country team placed sixth overall against their SCIAC competition, including Chapman, Pomona-Pitzer, Redlands, Cal Lutheran, Caltech, Occidental, Claremont-Mudd- Scripps and Whittier.
“It’s a windy course so there’s not a lot of room to get fast momentum,” Salas said. “There’s also little hills throughout that throw you off so overall it’s a very strategic and mentally challenging course.”
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps took home first place for the first time since 2016, with Claremont senior Thomas D’Anieri taking home the All-SCIAC Champion honor, finishing first with a time of 24:52.
Pomona-Pitzer failed to close the gap in top runner finishes and placed second overall while Redlands finished third overall with 103 runner places.
Pomona-Pitzer’s sophomore duo of Ethan Widlansky (24:55.5) and Owen Keiser (25:10.3) finished second and third.
The women’s wave followed the men at 9:15 a.m. as senior Catherina Posada placed 38th overall with a time of 24:14.4.
Senior Bianca Pages (24:51.7) and junior Ashley Garnica (24:56.9) connected stride for stride together, finished neck and neck and helping ULV to an eighth place finish overall.
“I’m always trying to do better and improve throughout the season,” Posada said. “We tried our best and gave everything we had in this race so I’m happy with our performance today.”
Claremont’s women brought another first place title to the school while Pomona-Pitzer sat in second again but added two individual titles in the process.
Occidental collected its third place honor with Sabrina Thurber placing fourth for the Tigers.
Sophomore runner Lila Cardillo of Pomona-Pitzer earned the All-SCIAC women’s champion award in the race with her time of 21:40.
Pomona-Pitzer senior Helen Guo was also named second to first team All-SCIAC with her second place finish time of 21:50.2.
Sophomore Riley Harmon of Claremont placed third overall with her time 21:56.1.
Head coach Justin Wood was disappointed with the results as he wanted the teams to move on as a group rather than individually. Wood had set certain standards leading up to the race and the team just fell short.
“We gave it a good shot but we came up short in the end,” Wood said. “It looked like half our crew on the women and men’s side ran personal bests.”
Wood said it’s difficult trying to feel what his athletes are going through during the race but will work on their strengths for Regionals.
For the Leopards, their efforts on the courses will resonate in their hearts for the next season, as they poured their sweat, tears and last breath into this race.
“This is what we’ve been getting up early in the morning,” Medina said. “Every single day has really been going towards this one big race. It means everything for us.”
Runners who receive bids to qualify for the NCAA West Regionals will run the Strehle Track for a third time on Nov. 16.
Runners there will compete for a spot at the NCAA National Championships at Tom Sawyer Park in Louisville, Kentucky, Nov. 23.
Andrew Alonzo can be reached at email@example.com.