UC Irvine Invitational: Event Photos
UC Irvine Invitational: Men's Results
UC Irvine Invitational: Women's Results
IRVINE, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific’s cross country season got off to a promising start, as the Cougars took fifth place with a strong season-opening performance from its top five individual finishers. The field included NCAA Division I’s No. 11-ranked Arkansas plus five other Division I programs, as well as defending NAIA national champion Cal State San Marcos.
Cal State San Marcos and three of those Division I programs were the only ones to finish ahead of Azusa Pacific, which beat defending Pacific West Conference champion California Baptist, as well as last year’s third-place Grand Canyon, in the first head-to-head meeting between the programs as conference rivals in the PacWest.
“I’m very happy with our team finish,” head coach Preston Grey said. “We beat a couple of quality PacWest programs in California Baptist and Grand Canyon, and for such a young group, they competed very well.”
Arkansas claimed eight of the top 10 finishers in the women’s race, including all of the top six spots. Azusa Pacific sophomore Kristie Sikma finished 14th overall with a time of 18:05.3, and 12 of the 13 runners ahead of her represented Division I programs. Not far behind was junior Sarah Higgens, who finished in 18:22.4 for 21st overall, just one-tenth of a second away from a top-20 finish.
A pair of freshmen running their first collegiate race were next to cross the line for the Cougars, with Sarah MacIntosh running an 18:47.7 to claim 34th overall and Natalie Koskela finished 43rd with a time of 19:01.3. Rounding out the team’s top-five, which all finished ahead of defending PacWest champion California Baptist’s top-three cutoff, was junior Diandra Carstensen with a time of 19:08.6, good for 49th overall in the 168-runner field.
Sophomore Iliana Velazquez, 78th overall with a time of 19:37.3, and freshman Christina Russell, who captured 86th with 19:48.8, rounded out the Cougars’ top-seven. Other finishers included sophomore Elle Farrar (105th, 20:08.8) and freshman Megan Crowley (120th, 20:34.3).
The Azusa Pacific men’s cross country team opened up the season with a solid effort, taking ninth out of 19 in the team standings and finishing less than a minute behind defending Pacific West Conference champion California Baptist.
“The race as a whole was a little slow, but I was happy with where we placed,” Grey said. “We were within shouting distance of California Baptist, we beat Grand Canyon, and I know we can race a whole lot better. I was encouraged to see us use this opportunity to show that we can be competitive within the PacWest.”
The Cougars’ top-four finishers all placed ahead of the Lancers’ No. 3, although California Baptist’s fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh spots were tightly bunched ahead of Azusa Pacific’s fifth-fastest individual. Leading the way for the Cougars was sophomore Peter Buscheck, who finished 42nd overall with a time of 26:35.9. The next three finishers were grouped together within 10 seconds of each other, finishing 62nd, 66th, and 71st overall in a field of 229.
At the front of the Cougar trio was freshman Ryan Phillips, who finished right at the 27-minute mark (27:00.5). Sophomore Cameron Correa-Henschke was behind him with a time of 27:05.6, and junior Zach Ginn crossed the finish line in 27:10.9. Rounding out the top-five was sophomore Devin Pierce (27:47.9). Freshman Aaron Potts started out quickly but faded to 124th overall, finishing at the 28-minute mark (28:00.5), and freshman Sam Baker was the seventh Cougar finisher with a time of 28:14.4 in his first collegiate race.
Other Azusa Pacific finishers included sophomore Zach Speno (162nd, 28:45.3) and senior Matt Hoekstra (168th, 28:58.3).
For the first time since 2005, Azusa Pacific is competing on consecutive Saturdays, with the Cougars taking part in next week’s UC Riverside Invitational before getting its standard two-week break from competition.