RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Although it was competing on just half its normal rest between meets, the Azusa Pacific cross country team posted solid performances for the second consecutive week at the UC Riverside Invitational Saturday morning.
The women’s team finished sixth overall in the 6K invitational race, the best finish of the four NCAA Division II programs competing in the meet, including Division II’s No 20-ranked Cal Poly Pomona. The men’s team finished 14th out of 19 programs, doing so without two of its top five runners.
All of the Cougars’ top-six finishers crossed the line ahead of Cal Poly’s fourth-place finisher, led by sophomore Kristie Sikma’s 15th-place performance in 21:10.6, which was her second consecutive top-15 finish in a competitive field primarily dominated by NCAA Division I competition. Junior Sarah Higgens finished 24th overall with a time of 21:33.9, and freshmen Sarah MacIntosh (22:24.0)and Natalie Koskela (22:28.0)finished just seconds apart while securing top-50 finishes in the 132-athlete invitational field.
“The team was pretty consistent off what we did last week,” Cougar cross country head coach Preston Grey said.. “We have to continue to get better, and we’ll really have to race better in two weeks at Stanford. For this week, we were solid, so it was a good race yet not spectacular. With a young team where a lot have never raced a 6k, they competed well. We got out a little fast and maybe paid for it that last 1,000 meters, and that’s where the inexperience showed.”
Junior Diandra Carstensen was just behind the freshman pair, tallying a 55th-place finish with a time of 22:39.7, while freshman Christina Russell claimed 72nd overall and edged Cal Poly Pomona’s Sarah Gulli by one-tenth of a second. Russell recorded a time of 23:07.4, and Azusa Pacific’s top-seven was rounded out by freshman Sadie Ringer’s 23:16.5 time. Iliana Velazquez also ran in the invitational portion of the meet, finishing in 23:29.5 to round out the Cougar contingent.
Azusa Pacific returns to its normal two-week break between meets for the rest of the year, competing next at the Stanford Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 29.
Azusa Pacific had two of the top-five finishers from last week’s season-opening meet in Irvine sitting out, but the remaining group still put together a strong effort. Just a week after starting out quickly before fading in with the rest of the pack, freshman Aaron Potts lived up to another quick start, notching the Cougars’ top individual finish with a time of 26:13.5 (72nd overall).
“Aaron has been training well, and it was a tough meet for our guys,” Grey said. “We had to sit two of our top five today, and we aren’t the deepest to begin with. This is a young group that’s still learning, but we still have to get a lot better.”
Just behind Potts was sophomore Peter Buscheck with a time of 26:19.4, good for 78th overall, and the next group of Cougars came through the finish line within 15 seconds of each other. Sophomore Cameron Correa-Henschke notched 107th overall with a time of 26:57.4, while sophomore Devin Pierce placed three spots back with a time of 27:08.5 to improve on his time from a week ago by almost 40 full seconds. Finishing fifth for the Cougars was freshman Sam Baker, who ran a 27:12.9 to knock over a full minute off his opening-week race time.
Rounding out Azusa Pacific’s seven-man contingent were senior Matt Hoekstra (27:29.1) and sophomore Zach Speno with a time of 28:36.8.
The Cougars finished second out of three NCAA Division II programs, finishing behind Cal Poly Pomona and ahead of Western New Mexico.