Cross country clears away competition in California
By Peter Melling /// Sports Editor
The Stanford Invitational in Stanford, California provided a unique challenge for the men’s and women’s cross-country teams. It was the only event on their schedule where the teams were not competing against athletes from the other eight members of the Northwest Conference. It is also the only event featuring Division I athletes from colleges such as University of California, Davis, Washington State University and the host, Stanford University (whose men’s and women’s teams are ranked sixth and fourth in the nation, respectively). Were they able to keep up their previous successes within this tough competition?
Despite the increased competition (361 men’s runners on the 8K course and 330 women’s runners on the 6K couse), both squads maintained their progress. The veteran women showed off their prowess once again, with the trio of Ali Brauer (’15), Susan Heinselman (’15) and Aviva Browning (’16) crossing the finish line at 23:50, 24:40 and 24:16, respectively. The first-year men also continued their success with the group of Tyler Sugai (’18), Blake Slattengren (’18), Jeff Mullins (’18), and Peter Innes (’18) being the Pioneers’ first men’s finishers with times of 25:53, 26:00, 26:16 and 26:59.
On the team’s ability to compete amongst top-tier talent, Nick Ellis (’16) said, “It increases expectations a lot. Because nobody’s bad [at the event], everybody’s competitive.”
The maturation of the team throughout these first few invitationals has greatly raised each team’s celling for the rest of the season, which has to be high against conference opponents like Willamette University and University of Puget Sound.
The Pioneers will take to the track once again at the Willamette Invitational on Oct. 4, at Bush Park. This event will be one of the most important in scouting the competition for the Northwest Conference championship in November, as well the Pio’s own invitational, held at Milo McIver State Park. On their outlook for these events and the championship race, Ellis said, “We have the LC invite coming up in a few weeks, so we’ll try to run fast there, and try to win conference against Willamette.”
Things are coming together well for both the men’s and women’s cross-country teams, as they hope that the skills they have learned and their continued progress in the out-of-state invitationals will carry them through the conference competition and get them on the right track towards a conference championship.