SF State men's cross country wins Sundodger invitational in Seattle

The SF State men’s cross country team won its second straight meet by winning the collegiate open race at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, WA on Saturday.

The Gators finished first of 21 teams in the 8km race hosted by the University of Washington.  Five runners finished in the top 20 for the Gators, whose average time was 15 seconds faster than the second-place team from Everett Community College.

Junior captain Tyler Deniston believes the win marks a new high for the cross country team.

“Definitely in recent history, this is by far our best accomplishment,” he said.

The title at the Sundodger comes two weeks after the Gators opened its season by winning the Notre Dame De Namur Invitational in Belmont, Calif.

Junior Ernesto Rodriguez was again the first finisher for SF State, finishing in ninth place overall with a time of 25 minutes and 17 seconds.  Sophomore Bruk Assefa came in tenth place, a mere half-second behind Rodriguez.

“It was just a good day.  My teammate [Rodriguez], he was helping me.  We both felt good,” said Assefa.

Though no Gator was among the top finishers individually, a consistent team performance helped them take home the victory.  Junior Will Zentmeyer, Deniston and senior captain Brian Trejo all finished in the top 20 out of over 230 runners.  Just eight seconds separated the top five SF State runners.

“It’s that much sweeter. We’ve never had a team finish that close together.  Ten seconds [apart] is ridiculous.  That’s unheard of,” Deniston said.

That team mentality is a factor in the group’s collective success so far this season.

“We’ve started something that in previous years we didn’t really have as far as a team mentality,” Trejo said.  “It’s almost miraculous in my eyes.  I think it’s awesome that we can have guys that are all fast enough and work with each other instead of against each other.”

Five Gators set new personal best times for 8km in the meet, including Trejo, Deniston, Assefa, and sophomores Tom Ashby and Ryan Woods.

The Gators, who finished fourth in the California Colligate Athletic Association in 2010, believe that this win is a statement of purpose for the upcoming conference schedule.

“Although it’s nice to bask in the glory of winning, we’ve gotta not let our heads get caught up.  We have to look forward,” Deniston said.  “Essentially we haven’t done anything yet in our minds.”

The Gators begin their conference test on Oct. 1 at the Sonoma State Invitational in Santa Rosa, Calif.  Trejo believes that there are more victories still to come for the SF State.

“We’re a force to be reckoned with now.  We’re not just one of those teams that end up second to last.  We’re actually competing to do something… to finally have a voice in this conference,” he said.