COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Sophomore Poppy Lawman took the early lead and then took off, running away from a 131-runner field to win the 21st Annual Vanguard Invitational at Fairview Park, Saturday morning.
Lawman’s individual win paced the NAIA’s No. 3-ranked Azusa Pacific to the team victory as well, the Cougars’ first win of year as they finished with 42 team points to beat second-place Point Loma Nazarene University, which tallied 69.
Lawman averaged a 5:37 mile over the 5K course to finish just 2 seconds off her career best that she set last month. She was never challenged along the way, continually pulling away and eventually winning by 29 seconds over second-place Breelan Matranga of Point Loma. For Lawman, it’s her first collegiate victory in 9 career meets, her fourth top 5 finish.
“Poppy took control of a good field and ran like she is capable of,” said Azusa Pacific Head Coach Preston Grey.
On the strength of All-American Lauren Jimison and senior Victoria Martinez, Azusa Pacific’s team victory was never in question. Jimison finished fourth overall in the field with an 18:04 with Martinez on her heels in fifth with an 18:09.
“Overall, it was a good team effort,” said Grey. “Lauren didn’t train last week because she has been dinged up, so her time is reflective of her time away. She’ll be fine.”
Not to be left out of the pack, freshman Melissa Telon ran a top ten time, clocking an 18:14 to come in eighth.
Senior Kayla Carstensen rounded out the Cougars’ scoring five with a 19:06 to finish 24th overall. Her younger sister, freshman Diandra Carstensen was Azusa Pacific’s sixth runner, finishing 34th with a career 5K-best of 19:35.
“I was somewhat surprised by Diandra’s time,” said Grey. “She stepped up today and ran better than what she has been showing in practice. She is figuring out how to train and is going to be pretty good down the road.”
The victory verifies Azusa Pacific’s No. 3 ranking in the NAIA. The Cougars’ beat No. 6 Point Loma Nazarene and No. 25 Westmont, which tallied 108 points to finish third.
In the men’s race, No. 14 Azusa Pacific was upset by unranked and meet host Vanguard University, which used its four-five runners to come from behind and beat not only the Cougars but also No. 6 The Master’s College. In fact, the Mustangs were in the lead after 3 runners, holding a narrow 6-point advantage over the Cougars, but Vanguard managed an impressive 90-second gap among its top 5 runners and rallied to beat the Cougars and The Master’s by 14 points. Vanguard finished with 61 while Azusa Pacific and The Master’s tied for second with 76. Reigning GSAC champion Westmont College was fourth with 97 points.
“I have no idea how this result is going to shake out in next week’s ranking,” said Grey, “but it does seem to establish that there 4 teams in the GSAC worthy of a berth into the NAIAs.”
All-American Abednego Magut won the men’s individual race with a 24:59 for his first victory of the season after finishing third and second in his previous 2 races this season. Magut edged The Master’s John Gilbertson by a second, holding him off down the stretch.
“We were pretty consistent with what our training has been in recent weeks,” said Grey. “J.J. ran much better than he did 2 weeks ago in Minnesota, but otherwise everyone was right where we expected them to be in their times.”
Azusa Pacific takes next week off and returns to the course Friday, Oct. 22, at the Titan Invitational hosted by Cal State Fullerton.