IRVINE, Calif. -- Senior Lauren Jimison won the individual title at Saturday’s UC Irvine Invitational, leading the Azusa Pacific women’s cross country team to an impressive second-place finish, and sophomore Wade Meddles led for most of his men’s 8k race before settling for a second-place finish.
Jimison ran a 17:20.4, winning the race by nearly 10 seconds, and junior Poppy Lawman added a fourth-place finish at 17:35.7. The Cougars were edged for the team title by Cal Poly-SLO, but they improved their team time by nearly a minute from a year ago. Azusa Pacific not only finished ahead of third-place Long Beach State, an NCAA Div. I program, but the Cougars also placed in front of the NAIA’s top-ranked Cal State San Marcos, whose team time was nearly two-and-a-half minutes behind Azusa Pacific’s team time of 1:29:40.11.
“This was a good race for the women,” Cougar head coach Preston Grey said. “Our goal was to compete with a couple of top Division I programs in the region, and placing just behind Cal Poly and ahead of Long Beach State was something that we felt good about today.”
Five Cougars finished in the top 25, with the trio of Melissa Telon, Sarah Higgens, and Kristie Sikma all finishing within 30 seconds of each other. Telon took the 12th spot with a time of exactly 18 minutes, just 1.5 seconds away from a top-10 finish. Higgens took 17th in the race with a time of 18:14.8, and Sikma finished 25th with 18:29.2.
The next two Azusa Pacific finishers were Megan Knippenberg (19:14.4) and Jacky Kipwambok (19:46.8). Elle Farrar was right on Kipwambok’s heels with a 19:47.4, and Kelsey DeGan also finished in that group with 19:48.4. Rounding out the Cougar contingent were Diandra Carstensen and Iliana Velazquez, who also finished less than a second apart with Carstensen’s 20:04.3 just edging out the 20:05.1 for Velazquez.
Meddles led for the majority of the 8k “A” race, but he took second, finishing behind John Gilbertson by an eight-second clip. Meddles ran a 24:32.4, but the next Cougar finisher was Zach Ginn in 55th place as Azusa Pacific finished ninth in the team standings of the 8k “A” race. The Master’s, Westmont, and Biola each finished ahead of the Cougars in the team standings, although Azusa Pacific finished two points ahead of Vanguard to claim the fourth position among GSAC programs in the race.
“Wade ran a great race today, and it was nice to get all of our newcomers out onto the course and get a race under their belts,” Grey said. “This gives us a nice starting point for the season, and it helps us focus on what we need to improve on in our upcoming workouts.”
The Cougars’ third finisher was Peter Buscheck in a time of 27:13.2, and Christian Sanchez and Anthony Lacambra came across the line as part of a 10-runner group that finished within 10 seconds of each other. Sanchez was 85th overall, with a 27:27.6 time, and Lacambra was 90th with a time of 27:31.7. Matt Hoekstra was also in the top 100, with his 27:45.1 time claiming 98th, and Devin Pierce was just three spots back of Hoekstra with a time of 27:48.4.
Zach Speno crossed the line at 28:00.6, and three other Cougars were less than a minute behind him: Christian Saylor (28:38.7), Cameron Correa-Henschke (28:46.8), and Robert Hernandez (28:57.0).
Azusa Pacific’s next meet is Saturday, Sept. 24, when the Cougars travel to the Stanford Invitational.