COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The Azusa Pacific men’s and women’s cross country teams emerged as the possible favorites for the upcoming conference meet following their showing at the Vanguard Invitational, held at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa.
Led by All-American Brianna Carstensen’s third victory in as many meets this season, the Cougar women, who are currently ranked No. 14 in the NAIA, finished third in the 14-team Vanguard Invitational with 68 points. Cal State San Marcos, ranked No. 4 in the NAIA, won the meet with 54 points followed closely by No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan which finished with 56 points.
“It was a pretty good day,” said Cougar coach Bill Reeves, “and to be within 14 points of a pair of top-5 ranked teams speaks well of the ladies’ efforts. We’ll see San Marcos again in a few weeks at the regionals and hopefully that will be a great race.”
In winning for the fifth time in the past 6 meets dating back to last year, Carstensen clocked an 18:19 to shatter the course record of 18:46 set by Concordia’s Tricia Mattson in 1999.
“This is really a hard course, so we had a little different strategy,” said Reeves. “I told Brianna to stay with the lead pack through the first 800 meters and if she felt she could then to go for the lead at that point. She did, and she led from the half mile on.”
Fellow All-American Christine Krause was seventh with a 19:06 while junior Marissa Reeber was 14th with a 19:23. Junior Lisette Saucedo was 22nd with a 19:56, and junior Kimberly Davids was 27th with a career-best 20:02.
“Kim had her best race ever,” said Reeves. “She is closing the gap on Marissa and Lisette and finished right there with San Marcos’ and Indiana Wesleyan’s fifth runners. She is a hard worker, and now that she is healthy, her training is really paying off.”
Despite being down their No. 2 runner and having their No. 4 runner slowed by leg swelling, the Cougar men, ranked No. 3 in the NAIA, nonetheless finished second with 76 points behind No. 2 Cal State San Marcos, which won the men’s race with 30 points.
Junior Peter Franz, who has a season-best this year of 26:10, was pulled from the race 20 minutes before the start because of a slight concussion suffered earlier in the week. Also, senior Chris Ramirez experienced significant swelling in his ankle, perhaps from a spider bite, just before the start of the race. He still competed but clocked a 27:30, some 70 seconds off his season best.
Juniors Tim Ramirez and Tim Gachago along with sophomore Danny Reid carried the Cougar banner quite nicely by all finishing in the top 10 and within 15 seconds of one another. Ramirez was seventh overall with a 26:18 and was followed on his heels by Gachago’s 20:20. Reid checked in at the finish line with a 26:33, good enough for tenth.
“We figured we may have been able to make up 40 points had we had Franz and Ramirez,” said Reeves, “and perhaps it would have been a different race down the stretch.”
Azusa Pacific now takes next week off before returning to action at the GSAC Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 25. If the Vanguard Invitational can be an indicator, the Cougars should fare quite well as they look to successfully defend their conference title.
Both the Cougar men and women were the top finishing GSAC team in Costa Mesa, and for the women that was quite a feat, considering that along the way they defeated the NAIA’s No. 9-ranked Point Loma Nazarene by 53 points, and No. 13 Concordia by 56 points.