Cal Preps for Pac-10s With Strong Effort at Pre-NCAAs

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Attracting more K's than any white-sheet attire gala, the cross country Pre-NCAA Invitational was held last Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind. This final preseason meet proved to be a critical transition for the Cal cross country team's and a promising indication for the fast-approaching Pac-10 and NCAA championship season.

For the Bears, who have a long-running history with these invitationals, past results may still be running through their heads as they compare where the team is headed.

Over the weekend, the Cal men finished seventh overall, beating a pair of nationally ranked schools in No. 20 Michigan State and No. 26 UCLA. The women's team similarly surpassed No. 13 Washington and No. 29 BYU on its way to an eighth place finish.

After a lackluster year in 2009 and a less-than-stellar performance in last month's Stanford Invitational, coach Tony Sandoval knew the runners had to calm themselves down and get back into their game.

"We definitely did better than last year, and I think performance-wise, much better than what we did at Stanford," he said. "This is something that we've been looking forward to. Overall, we've made some progress, but there's also some things we need to get better at."

Looking for what to get better at, Cal may not have to look too far. Stanford took home the first place title in the men's competition, while Florida State did the same in the women's race.

As for how they'll get better while moving forward, it seems like the Bears will be following in the pawprints of a duo that has shown its prowess time and time again.

Perennial pacemaker junior Deborah Maier, ended Saturday's race with a third place finish in the 6K. She has paced the Bears in every race she has entered the last two years - and is still on the up and up, having placed 13th in last year's Pre-NCAA meet.

For a collegiate career filled with many top finishes in both regional and national events, Michael Coe has chosen this season to establish himself as a No. 1 runner - among the other honorable mentions he has garnered over the years. While an unsettling defeat loomed over the Bears during the first quarter of the race in Terre Haute, Coe and company staged a huge comeback.

"We got swallowed by the crowd ... and all of a sudden we're in like 150th place, but we all kept our poise and slowly moved our way up," Coe said. "I passed all but six guys, so I almost got the whole field."

The weekend's performance has confirmed Cal's position as a top contender and not a moment too soon. In two weeks, the Bears will be leaving for Seattle, Wash., and the Pac-10 championships.


Samuel Farahmand covers cross country. Contact him at [email protected]

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