The men’s cross country team finished fifth out of 18 teams and the women’s team did not record a team score at the NCAA West Region Championships Saturday at Pomona-Pitzer.
The men’s team had a total time of 2:11:03.51 with a team average of 26:12.71.
“I think our team did well,” senior Cristobal Gutierrez said. “It’s a tough region and the teams are much stronger.”
Three runners placed in the top 20 of the 8,000-meter course.
Sophomore Bryan Hayes finished in 25:27.13, coming in 10th. Close behind him was Gutierrez placing 12th with a time of 25:44.82, his personal best. Freshman Tanner Long crossed the line in 20th in 26:01.01, also his personal best time.
“I was happy with my results, but it was a little too close for comfort,” Hayes said. “It definitely wasn’t my best race, but I’m happy I qualified.”
The three runners were also named all-West Region performers by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The fight for first place was a tough one between Occidental, Willamette, Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
Senior Parker Bennett of Willamette was in the lead after the first mile in the race with junior John Guzman of Occidental close behind him.
Eight minutes into the race, Guzman, who was SCIAC champion last year, took the lead for the first time.
Guzman was in the lead for the rest of the race, ultimately winning with a time of 24:40.27.
Pomona-Pitzer, the host of the championships, took the victory in the race with a total team time of 2:08:25.75 and an average team time of 25:41.15.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps came in second followed by Willamette and Occidental.
“I love my team and it has been a tough year,” Gutierrez said. “And I’m proud with all that we accomplished and we stuck it out together.”
Other La Verne runners included junior Jahi Gains, who placed 51st with a time of 26:47.43, and senior Alberto Acosta in 61st with 27:03.22. Juniors Jayden Earlywine and Ted Breslow finished at 70th and 80th with 27:16.38 and 27:28.87 respectively.
“I felt like the race as a whole was successful,” Hayes said. “Our team came in fifth place, which is five places better than what we ranked.”
On the women’s side, senior Shelby Sato ran her final collegiate race Saturday placing 112th, covering the course in 25:53.66. Freshmen Jacquie Scherrer, Andrea Valdez and Kamalei Lee finished closely behind Sato coming in 113th, 114th and 115th with times of 25:57.81, 25:59.17 and 26:14.35 respectively.
“I feel that we all stuck together through the race,” Valdez said. “We pushed each other and did really well.”
The women’s race was competitive as junior Michaela Freeby of Willamette and senior Melissa Skiba of Cal Lutheran battled it out to take the first place spot in the race.
Junior Sara Mostatabi of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps followed closely behind the both of them. But Freeby came out victorious placing first with a time of 21:37.66.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps took the team trophy with a total time of 1:53:42.19 and a team average of 22:44.44.
The Athenas were followed by Willamette, Whitworth and Occidental.
“I feel like I did pretty good,” Valdez said. “It was a tough race but a good one too.”
The top two team finishers earned automatic berths to the NCAA national championships next Saturday in Hanover, Ind. The NCAA selection committee will announce the 16 at-large bids Sunday afternoon. In addition, the top seven individuals that are not on a qualifying team will make the trip to Hanover.
Hayes has secured a spot with his 10th-place finish, but Gutierrez will be waiting for the committee’s decision. If two at-large teams are selected from the region, he will slide into an individual berth.
“I think I did well and I think I could’ve passed that last guy,” Gutierrez said. “The position I’m in, it’s pretty scary but I’m just going to hope for the best and hope that I get that bid.”
Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at email@example.com.