FULLERTON, Calif. -- This one wasn’t about times, but rather competition, effort and finish.
Azusa Pacific validated its reputation as one the best collegiate cross country programs in Southern California when the Cougar women won the Titan Invitational and the men finished second in their race Friday evening.
On a relatively flat and easy course on the Cal State Fullerton campus, the Cougars blazed numerous season-best times, but so too did runners from competing schools. It was who Azusa Pacific beat that offered satisfaction, not necessarily the impressive times.
The Cougar women won the 10-team race with 46 points, nearly doubling up on second-place Loyola Marymount, which was 1 of 7 NCAA Division I schools to trail Azusa Pacific on the course. The Cougars put 3 runners in the top 8 and 4 in the top 21 to run away from the field and win their second straight meet, and all of this without their All-American, junior Lauren Jimison
Sophomore Poppy Lawman won the individual race, beating 100 other runners with her first-ever sub-17 effort at 16:57. It’s her second straight individual victory after taking the Vanguard Invitational 2 weeks ago.
“Had we had Jimison, this would have been our best 1 through 5 gap this season,” said Azusa Pacific Head Coach Preston Grey. “Melissa ran very well, and overall it was great tune-up for us heading in GSACs in 2 weeks.”
Jimison, who has been nursing a sore foot, also sat out the meet because of cold-like symptoms she has experienced the past week.
Led by All-American Abednego Magut and freshman Wade Meddles, the Cougar men finished second in a 5-team field, but more importantly edged third-place California Baptist, which has been on the Cougar heels in recent meets. UCLA, with its “B” group of runners, won the race with 28 points, Azusa Pacific tallied 51, and Cal Baptist closely followed at 54.
Magut won the 92-athlete race with a 23:48, while Meddles followed in second with a 24:23. Senior J.J. Timphony was 17th with a 25:17. Spencer Winston (25:40/29th) and Anthony Lacambra (26:17/48th rounded out the Cougars’ scoring 5.
All 9 Cougar men posted season-best 8K times.
The Cougars now set their sights on the GSAC Championships, slated for Nov. 6 at Woodward Park in Fresno, Calif.