RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific men’s cross country made an early statement, sweeping the top two individual places in a 6K race to finish second as a team at Saturday’s California Baptist Invitational, and the Cougars also took second-place as a team in the women’s 4K race thanks to a trio of top-ten individual finishers.
The solid men’s performance was an encouraging step towards closing the gap on California Baptist, which is the defending Pacific West Conference men’s cross country champions, and the women’s race was a solid start for a group that claimed Azusa Pacific’s first-ever PacWest title a year ago. Junior Peter Buscheck was the individual race winner by a margin of just one second over his teammate, sophomore Aaron Potts, clocking a time of 18:38.8 in the 6K race.
“Those two ran smart, tough races for us,” Cougar cross country head coach Preston Grey said. “They worked really hard this summer, and it’s nice to see them reap the rewards of that. California Baptist is the defending champion, and they’re obviously still very good, but last year our team wasn’t even in the conversation when it came to the PacWest.”
California Baptist had the next four scoring finishers in third through sixth place, but the Cougars’ third and fourth places weren’t far behind, as freshman Kyle Bueckert finished in 19:38.6 for 12th overall while sophomore Ryan Phillips was one spot behind in 13th with a time of 19:41.4. Rounding out the top-five was junior Devin Pierce in 18th place with a time of 19:50.9.
Junior Kristie Sikma led the way for the women’s team, finishing fifth overall in 14:31.0, and she was joined in the top-ten by an impressive eighth-place effort from junior Elle Farrar, who finished in 14:40.7. Farrar had a two-second margin over the Cougars’ third finisher, sophomore Reika Kijima, and her time of 14:42.9.
“We ran a more conservative race than we might normally because we race again next week. We can do better, but this is a nice start, and it’s always nice to finish ahead of your conference rival,” Grey said. “Elle’s workouts have been really good, and to see her race like she did today would be a huge bonus for us as a team.”
The next five Cougars to finish all crossed the line in a span of just over 32 seconds, finishing between 21st and 30th overall.
Azusa Pacific is back in action next week, racing again in Riverside at the UC Riverside Invitational, which is the second of four regular-season meets preceding this year’s Pacific West Conference Championships in San Rafael, Calif.