A total of 21 cross country teams came out to Golden Gate Park’s Speedway Meadows Friday afternoon to compete in the 2014 SF State Invitational, where they fought through chilly weather and steep hills to cross the finish line.
Both men’s and women’s Gator teams placed 5th overall.
The course started off in Speedway Meadow where runners went straight ahead into the grassy field and made a loop around the polo field, continuing through the woods onto a sharp turn into a straight pavement path.
Returning onto the grass, the runners anticipated the most challenging section of the course, the steep grassy hill, which led them into Lindley Meadow and the course finish at Speedway Meadow.
The men’s team kicked off the 8k race against 15 other men’s teams, some conference such as Humboldt State, Cal State Monterey Bay, Cal State Stanislaus and Southern Oregon.
SF State’s Drew Feldman came out with a second great season performance, finishing the race with a time of 25:15 and placing 9th overall.
“I felt pretty good. The whole time I was trying to keep up with the front pack,” Feldman said after coming in first among the Gator pack. “I was sort of behind, but you don’t want to be leading in the beginning.”
The most challenging hill of the race was at the end of the course where many runners lost their leads. As Feldman said, his technique was to pace himself up the hills and take advantage of the downhills.
“My technique on this race was not passing people uphill. I let them tire themselves out,” Feldman said. “I noticed the people that kept passing me would always fall behind at the last hill. I decided I would let them pass me and see where they were on the hill, that’s actually how I got top ten.”
Team captain Logan Smith finished in 30th overall with a time of 25:55, his first time finishing before the 26 minute mark. This race was a great way to figure out where the team stood among its conference competition and prepare for the races that can determine whether it makes Nationals, Smith said.
“We haven’t done a lot of workouts so far and I think that’s why team-wise, we placed 5th and Humboldt and Monterey got in front of us,” Smith said. “I think that today was a good step forward, even without nearly any workouts under our belt, it went well.”
Returning runner Benji Preciado finished 29th overall with a time of 25:54 and Michael Garaventa finished with a time of 25:58 placing in 33rd overall.
Academy of Art’s Valentin Pepiot took 1st overall, while Southern Oregon placed 1st among the 16 participating teams with six runners placing top ten.
“The fact that Southern Oregon showed up really made this race fast,” head coach Tom Lyons said. “We ran well and we had a few guys run under 26 minutes. Having four guys under 26 minutes is really good.”
SF State’s women’s team kicked off a 6k placing 5th overall among the 17 competing cross country teams.
The Gators welcomed top returning runner and team captain Paxton Cota, who placed 10th overall with a time of 22:30 and led the Gator pack, to her first meet of the season.
“I think we did well for our first race with our conference teams. We finished 5th overall and there were only three teams ahead of us,” Cota said. “I think we’re on a great path, but we need to stay in a pack and making sure you’re staying as close to each other as possible.”
Freshmen runner Cori Harral made her first appearance in a Gator uniform placing 16th with a time of 22:42. Returning runner Lindsey Ragas was right in the middle of the pack, finishing in 21st with a time of 22:49.
Conference rival Monterey Bay had its runner Hannah Bell take 1st overall with a time of 21:40, while conference rival Humboldt State took 1st overall among the 17 teams.
The SF State women’s cross-country team is heavily composed of freshmen that are running under the guidance of top returning runners Cota and Ragas. Coach Lyons believes the new runners are going to have great performances as the season continues to unfold.
“I thought that our returners, Paxton and Lindsey did a very good job. To have all the new girls running under 24 minutes as freshmen is very good,” Lyons said. “We were competitive team-wise, and with the conference teams we were pretty competitive. I’m pretty happy with how we are at this stage of the season.”
SF State’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams will return to action on Oct. 25th at the UC San Diego Invitational in La Jolla, Calif.
“This next one is going to be a stepping stone to see where we are at and then conference is the real big ‘okay this is where we really need to start moving,’” Smith said. “Regionals is the big one, you don’t make it there, you don’t make it to Nationals.”