Staking a Claim
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After a solid three week break to allow for recovery and some additional fitness and training, the Westmont College Cross Country teams geared up to race at the 2018 Master’s Invitational in Santa Clarita on Saturday. After opening up the season in strong fashion, both the men’s and women’s teams posted exceptional performances at the Invitational against a strong field of runners, ranging from GSAC nemesis The Master’s (who hosted the meet) to D1 schools like UCLA. Not only did the team post great performances with plenty of personal bests, but the Warriors also were able to get a feel for the course that will host the GSAC Championships in two months time. The Conference Championship will be contested on Nov. 3rd.
On the men’s side, the Warriors (who are currently not in the national rankings) beat conference rivals The Master’s in a decisive fashion. In addition to that primary goal being achieved, the men’s team also finished a mere 9 points behind the current #4 team, Lewis-Clark State, out of Idaho. On top of that, the men defeated #20 Embry-Riddle of Arizona by 3 points. With Westmont’s stellar performance in such a strong field, the men are hoping to come away from this meet with a top-25 ranking. Notable performances include an overall #4 finish and course personal best by Michael Oldach (junior), a #9 overall finish by Blake Fonda (senior) and a #25 overall finish by Jason Peterson (freshman). David Peterson recorded a 50 second personal best to round out the Warrior’s scoring five.
On the women’s team, the Warriors recorded an astonishing 39 second team spread, with all five of the scoring runners finishing within 39 seconds of the leader. The camaraderie and discipline (both mental and physical) that is required for a team to finish that tightly packed together is a testament to the stellar training and mental fortitude that has become a hallmark of the women’s Cross Country team. Freshman Bethany Bodine finished in 49th to open the Warrior scoring, followed closely by Casey Jensen (sophomore) in 65th and Grace Hanna (sophomore) in 70th. The Warriors also recorded a victory over Master’s, setting up the rest of the season for the rivalry to continue to grow and provide many more exciting races - especially at the Conference meet.
“It was really a great race for both teams,” said Head Coach Russell Smelley. “The women really stepped up to the challenge and the men performed admirably. Both teams beat The Master’s and were able to find their legs on the conference course. It shows promise for the end of the season.”
On the race, Patrick Malberg (junior) said, “The course was quick with some small hills, and it was good to get out there this early on because we know exactly what’s going to be hard and what exactly we need to do to get better. We need to keep focusing on getting better, because The Master’s is going to keep getting better too and we want the win this year. And as always, we want to focus on getting our spread down and improving our rankings.”
Malberg was able to run a solid race and cut out The Master’s final scoring runner in the final kick of the race, dealing a blow to the Master’s overall score and helping the Warriors to secure their victory over their conference rivals.