The SF State cross country teams opened their season with a strong performance at Golden Gate Park’s Speedway Meadow. The men finished first overall and the women managed to hold their own against powerful teams.
The men’s team came in as heavy favorites to win the meet and did not disappoint. The Gators’ top five men finished in the top 10, totaling 27 points — the lowest of all teams. The second place team, Cal St. Stanislaus finished with 50 points, making the Gators win by a large margin. The men’s team were able to hold off strong competition from Division I schools like Santa Clara University and San Jose State.
Leading the men’s group was junior Bruk Assefa with a time of 26:07. Assefa placed third in competition and was only beaten by Dawson Vorderbruegge of Cal St. Stanislaus, 25:43, and Clemens Kammer of Academy of Art, 26:04.
Senior and co-captain Tyler Deniston is confident his team will be able to close in on the competition and get closer to the ultimate goal of Joplin, Missouri.
“It’s a long season, so we want to reserve ourselves for nationals. So today was a nice controlled day but hard at the end effort,” Deniston said. “As a team there is no reason why we shouldn’t go to Nationals.”
On the women’s side the group was lead by junior Zuleima Jimenez with a time of 23:01. The women’s team finished tied in sixth place with UC Santa Cruz behind Division I Sacramento State and Santa Clara University. There were multiple girls missing due to sickness and it showed, as the women were not able to compete as hard as they would have liked.
Jimenez believes it was a good team effort for the first race of the season.
“It was super nerve-racking beforehand for no reason. We’re supposed to treat it like a tempo, and we’re not supposed to go all out for the race,” Jimenez said. “There is a few of us that were sick but we did good regardless. I think we’re ready for the start of the season.”
The Gators were able to win their invitational for the second time in a row on the men’s side. Before then it had been 25 years since winning their own meet.
Coach Lyons has a lot to look forward to this season with both teams having room for improvement.
“The main thing is I want them to be able to run for each other. I want them to all be in it together, be dedicated and hard working,” Lyons said. “Everyone has got to be healthy and stay healthy. That’s going to be the hardest thing, maintaining their health.
After the invitational the Gators put on a “Senior Day” Ceremony for their departing runners. The seniors on the team were presented with awards and given posters made by their fellow teammates. Cami Barnes, Sue Choi, Alicia Trujillo and Lindsay Enright are the departing senior women. For the men’s team co-captains Tyler Deniston and Brian Trejo said their goodbyes at their last home meet along with David Urista and Ernesto Rodriguez.
SF State will be heading up north to Salem, Oregon for their next big meet in two weeks. The Gators are expecting stronger athletes with more competing teams heading into the Charles Bowles Invitational on Saturday Sept. 29.