RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Both the Cal State Fullerton men's and women's cross country teams earned third-place finishes on Saturday morning at the Big West Conference Championships in Riverside, Calif. Sophomore Samantha Huerta's fourth-place finish in the 6,000-meter race led the way for the women's squad while junior Sam Pimentel took 14th place in the 8K as the leader of the men's team.
UC Santa Barbara won the women's competition with 45 points to narrowly defeat Cal Poly with 47 points. The Titans tallied 77 in third place while UC Riverside had 89 in fourth place and UC Davis totaled 133 in fifth.
For the men, Cal Poly won with 29 points and UC Santa Barbara earned a runner-up finish with 55 points. The Titans had 112 points in third place, UC Davis was fourth with 141 points and UC Irvine tallied 144 in fifth place.
"To finish third on the women's side and to run as well as we did, we have to walk away from this really happy with how we performed," head coach John Elders said. "It's the best team finish since 1992 so it's a really great marker for our program and how we're progressing. It's very exciting and hopefully we can build on it."
Huerta led the way in 4th place with a 6K time of 20:41.5, which is the best finish for a Titan since 1994. Huerta is tied for the second-best individual finish in program history at the conference championships with Heather Killeen in 1994 and Kristen Peters in 1991. Freshman Wendi Leos clocked a time of 21:17.7 to earn a 12th-place finish. Junior Brianna Jacklin's time of 21:35.3 was good for 18th place overall. At 21:38.5, sophomore Sandra Flores took 20th place and junior Gabrielle De La Rosa finished in 23rd place at 21:45.2.
"I thought it was great, the women ran really well," Elders said. Sam (Huerta) just crushed it for us. Wendi (Leos) was disappointed but she ran well and to get 12th as a freshman is impressive. Sandra Flores was huge for us today, she stuck her nose in there and got right in the mix and that was probably the biggest boost for us. Brianna Jacklin had her biggest race of the year and Gabby (De La Rosa) was great too. I think we maximized our opportunity today and ran the best that we could which is all you can ask for."
Pimentel clocked a time of 24:59.8 in 14th place as the first Titan to cross the finish line. Freshman Jacob Smith's time of 25:09.6 was good for 19th place overall and senior Danny Ramirez was right behind him in 20th place with a time of 25:10.2. Sophomore Jorge Sanchez's time of 25:32.4 was good for 30th place and senior Jason Hillquist ran his best race of the season to take 31st place with a time of 25:35.8.
"We beat Santa Barbara twice this year in invitational races so it's a little disappointing to get third behind them today but they crushed it," Elders said. "We had what I would call an average day but I'm happy the guys competed and didn't give up. They ran gutsy and laid it all out there but it just wasn't our best day. At the end of the day, you have to be satisfied with giving everything you had and that's the result. I'm proud of the guys; they've had a great season. This will give them some added motivation for regionals, I'm sure."
Next up for the team is the NCAA West Regionals on Nov. 10 and will be held at Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle, Wash.
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