After a 15-year hiatus from the athletic lineup, SF State reintroduced men’s track and field this past month, with almost half of
this season’s roster doubling as two-sport athletes.

The team houses five wrestlers and three soccer players, something that might cause a double-take when initially looking over the athletes on the team roster.

The rest of the team?

Cross country runners make up the remaining ten athletes on the team.

“They [cross country] would naturally be part of the track team,” said Tom Lyons, the director and coach of track and field and cross country. “That’s what most schools have, is cross country and track [combined]. So if you run cross country, you run track.”

15 years after shutting the men’s track program down, their spring announcement and midseason formation was a bit of a surprise.  A surprise that needed athletes, according to Lyons.

After the long-distance runners from men’s cross country joined, Lyons needed eight more athletes on the team to make it official.

“My wrestling coach came in and told us that they [men’s track] needed help to get the program rolling,” said freshman Jacob Men-
doza. “I’ve had a similar issue to that back in high school, where my wrestling program needed people to keep the program going. So I
just saw it as another opportunity.”

Mendoza, who runs the 100 and 200-meter events and the 4 x400-meter relay, is coming off the conclusion of wrestling season. SF State wrestling finished 17th at the 2019 NCAA Division II National Championships. Mendoza wrestled at the 174-pound weight class for the Gators this season.

As Mendoza sat on the bleachers at Cox Stadium, waiting for the short-distance practice to start last Friday, March 15, SF State men’s soccer was on the field finishing one of their off-season practices.

Three of the track and field runners, who are also soccer players, were out there running through a live-game drill.

“I get a lot of my conditioning in through soccer,” said sophomore Peter Swinkels, an All-CCAA honorable mention goalie for Gators soccer in the fall and now a runner for men’s track in the spring. “For the most part, I’m just there for events.”

“The soccer guys are focused on their soccer this offseason,” Lyons said. “So we’re trying to not interfere too much with their program.”

Although soccer athletes are mostly focused on their respective sport, it doesn’t mean they don’t represent some real talent for running, especially from junior runner and soccer midfielder Jonathan Orozco.

“He’s [Orozco] got a lot of ability for running,” Lyons said of his athlete. “He was able to do really well in our first meet.”

Orozco placed third in the 1500-meter event at the season-opening East Bay Quad Meet for the men’s track team on Feb. 22, the program’s first event since 2004.

“We’re pretty much doing what we do in soccer, running….without the ball,” Orozco said.

After joining the team this spring, Orozco has taken an interest to track and plans to continue next spring. After completing his final season playing soccer for the Gators, that is.

“I was always interested in track,” Orozco added. “It was actually one of the track girls [told him about the team]. I told her I would be interested in doing track if there was ever a team. So when she found out there’s gonna be a men’s team, she instantly texted me and
let me know, and I emailed the track coach.”

The connection to the women’s powerhouse track team runs deeper than just recruiting for the team. Other than running the same events, men’s and women’s teams practice together, with the women sharing tips for the men’s runners, according to Orozco.

“We learn a lot [from women’s track],” Orozco said. “It was my first time running [at the East Bay Quad Meet] and they were the ones I went to personally before the meet to get information.”

“For them to give me the details of what to do and how to pace myself for the 1500 so I don’t gas out in the beginning, they were … one of the
big parts of why I ran so well that day.”

This season’s team started out on a strong note with numerous runners placing on the podium in their season-opening meet, but coach Lyons reminded his runners to keep the expectations a bit more grounded than the sky-high expectations of his 10th ranked women’s squad.

The Gators sent some of their cross country runners to the Hornet Invitational last Saturday, March 16 at the Hornet Stadium of Sacramento State University. The limited group did not do as well at the event, with no runners able to crack the top-10 at their respective events.

After all, almost half of the team’s roster has a different sport they’re focusing on.

“In the next year or the year afterwards, we’re looking to get up to 18 men on our roster who will also be
on the cross country [team,]” coach Lyons said.

Then, expectations can truly start rising.