SF State’s men’s and women’s cross country teams returned from incredible Saturday finishes, running over hills in 100 degree weather at the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship race, and now set their minds on Regionals.
“I was very happy with how the team performed. We ran very well and have progressed nicely throughout the season,” said head coach Tom Lyons. “The men and women have been very patient and focused on the postseason. I believe that was the key to our success.”
Women’s team captain Paxton Cota led the way for the Gators, finishing third overall with a time of 22:36 and earned All-CCAA honors for the third time in her career.
Right behind Cota was freshman Cori Harral, who finished 11th overall with a time of 22:52 and received All-CCAA honors for the first time.
“I feel really good about it,” Harral said. “It’s great to know that I am still improving and that the training is working.”
The women’s team finished fifth out of 10 teams, which is one of the its best finishes since 2006.
With regionals approaching, the team is working on a strategy to make the most of their opportunities, Harral said.
“We are going to try to run in a group because it helps us move up in the race,” she said. “We are able to push each other and it ultimately leads to a faster time.”
Leading the way for the men’s team was Drew Feldman, who had a breakout season after finishing first in three out of four races for the Gators. Feldman finished third overall in the race with a time of 25:24.
“You train a whole season for those races, but I try not to get a big head about it,” Feldman said. “My motto is to move forward and move on to the next thing, so that’s Regionals and hopefully Nationals.”
Men’s team captain Logan Smith led the middle of the Gator pack by placing 12th overall with a time of 25:51.
Benji Preciado also had a good race after placing 15th with a time of 25:54, which earned him All-CCAA honors for the first time.
Smith said the weather was a challenge, but was happy that the team performed well together to place third among the eight teams. In 10 years at SF State, this is the most runners coach Lyons has ever had in the top 15.
“I think it’s a great achievement,” Smith said. “There was a strategy me and Tom came up with, sticking with packs. Drew and Benji had their own thing up front. I had myself, Michael Garaventa, and Kenny Trejo with me. I think if we keep this — our top five running very well — and be solid, we’re going to be set for Regionals and go to Nationals.”
The Gators will travel to freezing Billings, Mont. Nov. 22 for the NCAA Division-II West Region Championships where the men’s and women’s teams will fight for a spot for Nationals.
There, the two teams will face many challenges such as racing on an unfamiliar track, toughing out potentially sub-zero temperatures and battling non-conference teams for a ticket to Nationals.
“Coach Tom is pretty good on making sure we’re in shape for when it matters,” Feldman said. “We’re pretty refreshed and we’ve been training all season. Our team is ranked 7th. If we could leap frog just one more team, we can qualify.”