This article was originally published in ZU News.
The men’s and women’s cross country teams finished fourth and sixth, respectively, at the PacWest Championships on Oct. 21 in Belmont, Calif.
Senior Jeremy Porter led the men’s side with a second place finish. Porter ended the race with a time of 24:55.8, only 2.1 seconds behind the first place runner.
“It was just a fun race overall,” Porter said. “Earlier on this year, I definitely saw some challenges facing down the beginning of the season. I saw a big road ahead of me, a long one. It was arduous and really hard to get to the spot where I’m at right now. When you get to a place where you know how much you fought through to get there… I just really appreciate it.”
This was one of Porter’s fastest times this season. He finished in first place at the Biola Invitational and the Coyote Challenge in September.
“It was my last PacWest race. It was a good way to finish it off and I’m happy with how it went. I’m ready for the next race coming up,” Porter said.
Cross country head coach Preston Grey said he was happy with the way Porter ran.
“He definitely wanted to get the win, but the other two guys he was running with, all three are All-American caliber guys. If he runs the same way at regionals, he’s got a great chance of going to nationals,” Grey said.
Grey expressed that the team performed well overall today, though they have some things to work on.
“It was definitely solid. We’re getting better every year,” Grey said. “For the men’s team, we thought we were going to be right in that mix somewhere. The girls were only two points out of fourth. We would have liked to have bridged that gap, but there’s a lot to build on for both sides. There are some good things we can take away from this one.”
The men’s team finished with a score of 111, good for fourth place out of 12 teams. There were a total of 89 runners in the men’s competition.
Porter reflected on his close finish at the end of the race.
“It definitely gives you a sense of humility. I didn’t know exactly how good those guys were coming into this race. That was the first time I competed against them. It humbles you because it shows you how talented they are and how quickly things can change,” Porter said. ” I honestly was going through that last 100 meters thinking I was going to take the race.”
Senior Cody Drisko also represented the Cougars, finishing 11th overall with a time of 25:49.2, only three seconds outside of finishing in the top 10. The men’s team had one other finisher in the top 25, freshman Nathaniel Tamminga, who finished 23rd with a time of 26:27.8.
Grey noted that the team is young and they performed well given the circumstances.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids. This was their first championship race. They’re learning how to run at that level,” Grey said. “The girls didn’t get up quite fast enough and had to do a lot of work late. They finished strong. For the guys, there’s a couple spots here and there where we can pick up some extra points. We’re working on improving that.”
Junior Elise Larson was the top runner for the Cougars on the women’s side. She finished 11th overall with a time of 22:01.3, only 3.5 seconds out of a top 10 finish.
“I really wanted to focus on racing strategy and being smart about it. The race was very difficult. I focused on being able to pass in the last half of the race,” Larson said. “I was in the spot that I aimed for. However, in the next meet I want to set my sights high and go for as high of a place as I can.”
Larson was joined by freshman Jenna Wilson, who ended up in 15th place with a time of 22:19.9. Wilson and Larson have been the top runners for the women’s team at every race this season. Wilson’s top finish of the season was fourth place at the Coyote Challenge, where Larson finished in seventh.
“She’s our top returner coming back. She and Jenna have kind of been sharing that number one spot,” Grey said on Larson’s performance. “Our goal was making the top 10 [overall runners]. We were right there, really close. The four or five top girls [in the conference] are probably All-Americans. So we’re right on the cusp of breaking into that elite group.”
Porter is already focused on regionals, which will take place in Oregon on Nov. 4.
“I’m looking forward to getting to compete against so many good guys. The west region is so deep. I’ve been racing them for four years. I’m looking forward for competing for the championship. This is my first year with an actual chance to do that, so I’m happy,” Porter said. “I just hope next time goes even better than today went.”
Larson echoed her excitement for regionals as well, saying the team would be ready for them.
“We’re going to have a little more spring in our step when we train,” Larson said. “I’m excited for it to be a fast race. It’s a really good course. If we keep doing what we’re doing, it’s going to put us in a good spot.”