RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Cal State Fullerton women's and men's cross country teams finished fifth and sixth, respectively, at the 2015 Big West Conference Championships held at the Ag/Ops Course on the UC Riverside campus Saturday morning.
For the third consecutive year, the women finished fifth, but the first Titan to cross the finish line was a bit of a surprise. Junior Pamela Pelayo was Fullerton's top finisher on the 6k course for the first time in her career. The native of South Gate, Calif., finished 24th overall with a time of 21:44.85, an improvement of more than one minute and 24 placements from 2014.
"Pamela ran her best race as a Titan," head coach John Elders said. "As a team, our performance wasn't what we expected. We had an off day. We had a great week of preparation and training, and today we struggled. I just really think we have a much stronger squad than what we showed today."
Cal Poly won the Big West Women's Cross Country title for the third time in the last four years with a total of 39 points and four top-10 finishes. The Mustangs were followed by UC Santa Barbara (59), UC Davis (69), UC Riverside (109), Cal State Fullerton (164), Long Beach State (169), Hawai'i (186), CSUN (186) and UC Irvine (225).
UCR sophomore Faith Makau was the individual winner on her home course in a time of 20:27.50.
Junior Stephanie Ruiz was the fourth Titan to cross the finish line as her time of 22:15.03 was good for 39th place overall. For the first time this season, freshman Kevelin Huerta scored for the Titans as she was the fifth Fullerton runner to cross the end line in a time of 23:06.85, placing her in 55th.
On the men's side, the Titans finished sixth in the 8k race paced by Jose Penaloza's 14th-place time of 24:43.70. For the fifth time this season, Penaloza led the Titans at the finish line as the junior from Garden Grove, Calif., matched his placement from one year ago.
"Jose led the way and was very competitive up front," Elders said. "He ran his heart out. Sam Pimentel had a strong performance and Joe Casco ran a solid race as well, but after that we really dropped off. We've ran much stronger in the last month, and today it just didn't happen for us. We need to hit the reset button for both squads and really focus on a good training week to get ready for the West Region meet."
For the second straight season, the UC Santa Barbara men's squad captured the conference championship with a total of 31 points and five top-15 finishes. The Gauchos were followed by Cal Poly (36), UC Davis (107), Long Beach State (109), UC Irvine (132), Cal State Fullerton (152), UC Riverside (168) and CSUN (209).
UCSB senior Bryan Guijarro was the men's individual winner in a time of 24:01.94.
Sophomore Joe Casco was the second Titan to cross the finish line as his time of 25:17.35 was good for 27th. For Casco, it was the second straight race that he was the second Titan to finish, while freshman Sam Pimentel finished in 31st with a time of 25:30.45 – his best 8k time of the year.
Following Pimentel, senior Jeff Little finished in 42nd with a time of 26:03.03 followed by senior Tim Reed (43rd: 26:19.57), junior T.J. Moffit (49th; 26:36.43) and junior Martin Montes (50th: 26:38.48).
The Titans return to action on Friday, Nov. 13, as the University of Washington cross country program will host the 2015 NCAA West Regional at Jefferson Park Golf Course. Over thirty men's and women's cross country teams, every top squad in the West, will be on hand to race for a spot on the starting line of the NCAA Championships. The women will race first at noon, competing over 6,000-meters. The men's race will begin at 1:00 p.m. and cover 10,000-meters. Jefferson Park Golf Course consists of multiple 2k loops on flat fairways crossing some cart paths. The course was the site of the 2010 Pac-10 Championships, the USATF Club Nationals, the NCAA West Regional Championships in 2012, and the Washington Invitational beginning in 2014.