Top-Ten Finishes May Not Be Enough for NCAA Bids

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The Cal cross country team entered the NCAA regional championships in Springfield, Ore. with their sights set on at-large NCAA championship bids.

But like much of their season, Saturday's race didn't quite follow the script.

Both the men and women took eighth place out of 26 and 25 teams, respectively - finishes which will likely not be enough to earn either squad a trip to Terre Haute, Ind on Nov. 23.

Cal faced top-notch competition at the meet, but a chilly and muddy Springfield Golf Course presented a challenge in and of itself.

"It was a hard day out there today," senior Alison Greggor said. "There were girls falling at the starting line...We were a little bit out of our element. If we had finished fifth or sixth, (an NCAA birth) was very likely, but it didn't go exactly as planned."

The 27th-ranked women came in with the momentum of a fifth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships, but were forced to tackle Saturday's course without redshirt freshman Ellie Keene. The team's second place scorer at every meet since September's Stanford Invitational missed the race nursing a foot injury suffered at the Pac-10s, while sophomore Michelle Davis was also sidelined.

"We thought (Ellie's foot) would get better with rest, but it didn't respond to treatment," coach Tony Sandoval said. "We fell short today, but there were some bright spots."

Indeed, the Bears received yet another strong individual performance from sophomore Deborah Maier, who followed up her stellar Pac-10 finish by placing 14th out of 184 runners to claim All-Regional team honors. Despite battling sickness the week of the race and falling on the last turn, Maier covered the 6,000-meter distance in 21:20.43; her career-best finish against the West Region was the highest individual placement by a Cal woman at the meet since Bridget Duffy took eighth in 2003.

On the men's side, the Bears were once again paced by junior Steve Sodaro, who took career-best 16th place in the 182-person field, finishing the grueling 10,000-meter course in 31:10.42.

Sodaro finished one spot shy of claiming an individual NCAA championship berth, but was still an All-Region selection, along with fellow junior Kari Karlsson (21st, 31:14.4).

"Our goal was to run with somebody else for four miles...and then it was anybody's race," Sodaro said. "With about 1,000 (meters) to go, I caught one guy and another, and then a pack of guys ... and kicked as far as I could."

The Bears also received another impressive showing from Cody Schmidt, who came in 45th overall. After stepping up as the fourth Cal runner at the Pac-10 Championships when key members were down with injury and sickness, the true freshman crossed the finish line third for the Bears on Saturday.

Tags: CAL CROSS COUNTRY


Contact Ed Yevelev at [email protected]



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