Running in the 'Meda: A PAC-12 Cross Country Champs recap

Running in the 'Meda: A PAC-12 Cross Country Champs recap

Marty Beene

As I promised at the end of last week's blog, here is a recap of the PAC-12 Cross Country Championships, held last Friday.

It was a rare opportunity for Alamedans to watch a major college conference championship event so close to home. The meet was held at the Municipal Golf Links in Oakland - that's the course you see when you drive along Doolittle Drive past the Oakland Airport, just before the San Leandro border. The only unfortunate thing about this meet was that - despite being in the middle of one of the worst droughts in history - it rained.

The course was laid out as a 2,000-meter loop that covered much of the perimeter of the golf course. The women would run three laps, while the men would run four. (Still not sure why the NCAA thinks women can't run the same distance as the men, like they all do in high school. Is this a holdover from international track & field not letting women run longer distances in the past?)

The rain mysteriously picked up to "steady" exactly 10 seconds before the starter's gun sent the women off on their adventure. The women stayed in a fairly tight pack for the first lap, leaving just a few stragglers 10 or 20 meters behind. In the second lap, however, the contenders began to take charge, with a pack of about six or seven runners pulling away. About halfway through the third lap, however, Arizona State's Shelby Houlihan, Stanford freshman Elise Cranny, and Cal freshman Bethan Knights pulled away. Not long after their move, Houlihan and Cranny gapped Knights and made it a two-woman race. Houlihan put the hammer down with about 600 meters to go, winning with a reasonably comfortable four-second cushion over Cranny. Knights was 13 seconds behind Cranny in third place.

The individual results were nice, but cross country is a team sport, and the impressive performance was just beginning. Six of the next 13 runners to finish were from the University of Oregon, sealing a solid victory for the Ducks. Stanford ran an excellent third lap as a team and jumped ahead of Colorado for second place.

Just as the women's race ended, the rain stopped, and it became downright pleasant. The men's race was next, and the impressive running performances continued.

Similar to the women's race, the men mostly stuck together for the first couple of laps except for Sergey Sushchickh of UCLA, who appeared to want to win the race during those first two laps. He was soon swallowed up by the bunch, and then Edward Cheserek of Oregon took over.

Cheserek hails from New Jersey and holds many high school records in that state. Only a sophomore, he put on a clinic of how to accelerate in the middle of a race, and won it easily for the second year in a row. No, he actually looked like he was jogging - a great testament to good running form. Eric Jenkins, also of Oregon, was second overall, with Joe Rosa of Stanford coming in third.

For the team competition, top-ranked Colorado put their five scoring runners right behind Rosa to make a mockery of the competition. Oregon ended up in second place, with Stanford only three points behind in third. Oh, and, by the way, the rain returned about halfway through the men's race as a steady downpour.

Alameda High alumnus Cameron Tu ran well, finishing as the #4 runner for Cal, an excellent result for a true freshman. Tu was 57th out of 78 finishers, and is now looking forward to the NCAA West Regional to be held at Stanford on November 14. Team and individual qualifiers will run at the Nationals in Indiana on November 22.

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups. Marty can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.