A drizzle-coated Golden Gate Park Speedway Park Thursday morning proved to not be a challenge for SF State men and women’s cross country teams, which kicked off their seasons against Academy of Art and Cal State East Bay.
The men’s team began the three-way duel with a strong start by junior Drew Feldman, who made his first official race appearance as a Gator after redshirting as a freshman and missing his sophomore season due to injuries.
“I felt good, but I definitely didn’t watch my pace throughout the race,” Feldman said after placing in first for the Gators and second for the overall match with a time of 23:59. “I need to be smarter, strategically.”
Junior runner Michael Garaventa also put out a great performance by maintaining a good pace throughout the match. Garaventa got ahead of the pack and placed in second for the Gators and fourth in the overall match with a time of 24:19.
The Gator’s top runner Benji Preciado finished with a time of 24:59, placing him in 10th overall, while team captain Logan Smith placed fifth overall with a time of 24:37.
The team’s strong performances helped itself to a second place finish overall.
“I think as a team we did pretty well,” Smith said after the Gators fell to Academy of Art 25-30 but beat Cal State East Bay 17-42. “We need to stay together as a team to win and get more points. Building a Gator pack is the key.”
Cross country coach Tom Lyons said he did not expect the men’s cross country team to dominate the meet. Rather, he viewed the season opener as an opportunity to see where his runners were at physically and as a chance to look for ways he can improve the team.
“It’s early in the season and there’s improvement that will be done. I didn’t need to see fantastic races today,” Lyons said. “Really for us, it’s all about the post-season. November is the key for the team.”
Women’s cross country nearly snatched away a first place finish in it’s meet, despite missing the team’s top runner, Paxton Cota.
The women’s team defeated Cal State East Bay by a close margin of 23-24 and fell to Academy of Art 27-29.
“I rolled my ankle at practice last Friday and I’m taking a few days off to get back,” team captain Cota said. “All the girls worked together very well and that’s great to see. I think it’s going to be a very strong season. The strongest part of the day was their ability to stay in a pack.”
Returning junior Lindsey Ragas had one of her best races as a Gator, finishing with a time of 22:45. Ragas maintained a good pace with the Gator pack that made a great push at the end of the race, but fell short to Academy of Art’s McKaela Christenson, who finished in first overall.
“Academy of Art beat us by a couple points in the meet, but it was really exciting to see the girls race and have two freshmen in the top five,” said Lyons. “We have a team where everyone is running very well, (and) to have the freshmen be able to run with the returners like that was impressive.”
Men’s cross country returns to Speedway Meadows Oct. 10 for the SF State Invitational, and women’s cross country returns to action on Oct. 4 at thecl.