FULLERTON, Calif. - Cal State Fullerton men's and women's cross country will head to UC Riverside on Saturday to compete in the Big West Championships. The women's 6,000-meter race is set to begin at 8:45 a.m. PT while the men's 8K will start at 9:30 a.m. Each team is allowed to have nine entries while only the top five count towards the team score, like always. The meet is being held at the Riverside Ags/OPs Course (directions here, scroll down).
The Titans will compete against defending champions for both men and women in Cal Poly, CSUN, Hawai'i (women only), Long Beach State, UC Davis, UC Irvine, the host UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara.
In 2018, the Titans women's squad earned a runner-up finish overall, the best team finish since 1992. Samantha Huerta also earned a runner-up finish as an individual at the 2018 Big West Cross Country Championships. Along with Huerta, Trinity Ruelas and Sandra Flores each earned 2018 All-Big West accolades for finishing in the top-10.
On the men's side, the squad returns all but one runner from the 2018 squad that took third place in the meet. That one runner, was Samuel Pimentel, the top runner on the team in 2018. However, Jorge Sanchez, Jacob Smith and Anthony Alfaro are back to lead the way for the squad that took third place in the 2018 Big West Championships.
Just like the USD Invite, both Ruelas and Smith won their respective races at the UCR Highlander Invite, but this time both teams won as well. Ruelas led the women to a dominant first-place finish as they scored just 31 points while second place had 82. Ruelas was named Big West Cross Country Women's Athlete of the Week for her outstanding performance. Smith led the men's team to a comfortable win as well, besting the second place squad by 17 points.
The women's team took home a first place finish at the 2019 Joe Piane Notre Dame Cross Country Invitational on while the men's team finished in 14th place. The women's team was led by Huerta's 12th place finish with a 5K time of 17:23.94. Ruelas was not far behind Huerta finishing 15th with a time of 17:26.31. Jorge Sanchez (25:13.05) and Smith (25:14.63) led Fullerton coming in 35th and 36th place, respectively. Because of their performances, Huerta and Sanchez were both named Big West Cross Country Athletes of the Week.
The Titans competed at the Mustang Challenge at Central Park in Santa Clarita on Sep. 28. The men's team was led by Eduardo Guapilla to a 10th-place finish while the women only had four runners finish the race and therefore did not score as a team.
At the USD Invite, both the men's and women's squads earned runner-up finishes at the USD Invite. Individually, Ruelas won the women's 6K race by 14 seconds while Smith won the men's 5K by about five seconds. Ruelas has been the top finisher for the Titans in each of the first two races while Smith was the second Titan finisher in the season-opening race.
Fullerton opened up the year by sweeping the Mark Covert Classic on Aug. 31. Newcomer Erik Gonzalez led the way for the men's team with an 8K finish of 24:55.9 to take third place overall and first among collegians. On the women's side, Ruelas was second overall and first among collegians in the 5K with a time of 17:51.9.
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