FULLERTON, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton men's and women's cross country will head to Santa Barbara to take on UCSB and Cal Poly in the UCSB Lagoon Open on Saturday. The men's 8K is set to begin at 10:15 a.m. PT while the women's 5K is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m.
"Overall, we've had a great practice week," head coach John Elders said. "Sometimes that doesn't always translate to a great race because the bodies of the student-athletes haven't quite adjusted yet but practice went well and I think we are ready to take it to up a notch from where we were at Mark Covert."
Samuel Pimentel and Jacob Smith will be looking to lead the way for the Titan men as they finished second and third respectively in the 34th annual Mark Covert Classic (Sep. 1). The Titans will be looking for revenge as Cal Poly won the men's competition and Santa Barbara just edged out the Titans for second place.
"The men's team will be the same that ran Mark Covert and we're just trying to get better," Elders said. "This course is unique and it is very narrow at certain spots and can be very hard to pass. The men run this part of the course twice so they need to have a strategy going into the race because for about ¾ of a mile you can't pass anybody without pushing them into the water."
The women look to keep momentum rolling as they finished in fourth place last time out at the Covert Classic. The women were led by Trinity Ruelas and Lucina Vincent who were the top two finishers of the five scorers for the Titans. Since the Titans also competed against these teams at the Covert Classic, they will be tested again Saturday as they look to run down Cal Poly and edge out Santa Barbara for the second straight meet.
"Even without some of our top girls, we are still bringing a very strong group and we are excited for them to compete this weekend," Elders said. "Jessica Ruiz will make her season debut and we are just going to focus on getting better. I think we will be at full strength for the Roy Griak Invitational in a couple weeks."
The Titans women's squad returns six of the seven runners they sent to the Big West Championships that earned a third-place finish overall, the best team finish since 1992. Included in the six returners is the duo of sophomore Wendi Leos and junior Samantha Huerta, who were the first or second Titans to cross the finish line in every race last season. Huerta took fourth at the Big West Championships while Leos finished in 12th.
Six student-athletes return to the men's squad that also took third place at the 2017 Big West Championships. The 2018 squad will be led by Pimentel, Smith and junior Jorge Sanchez. Pimentel was very consistent in 2017 as he was a top-three finisher for the Titans in each race. Smith finished out the year on a high note as he was the No. 2 Titan finisher at the conference championships and he led the team at the NCAA West Regional.
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