Bears Run West With Third-, Fifth-Place Finishes in NCAA Regional

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The race is on for the Cal cross country team after Saturday's stunning performance at the NCAA West Regional in Springfield, Ore. The men finished third overall - their highest ever in the race - while the women were fifth for their best showing since 1988.

The No. 22 men's team placed higher than most expected and held their own against top-ranked schools like No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 Oregon and No. 13 Portland. The Ducks came in first with 63 points and the Cardinal trailed closely behind with 65, while the Bears edged out the Pilots 78 to 131.

"The men were solid throughout the race and to beat Portland, a perennial cross country power, is significant," head coach Tony Sandoval said.

The No. 26 Cal women tied for fifth with unranked UC Santa Barbara at 159 points apiece. Ahead of them was a tight pack of top teams: No. 4 Stanford, No. 6 Arizona, No. 7 Oregon and No. 11 Washington included. The Huskies claimed their third straight regional title with 73 points, just ahead of the Ducks (77), the Cardinal (86), and the Wildcats (90).

"I'm so proud of the women," Sandoval said. "(The team's usual second scorer) Chelsea Reilly didn't run because of a back injury. Mickey Davis filled in and ran a superb race."

Individually, there was a lot of improvement from all of the Bears.

On the men's side, Michael Coe was third among 178 runners, finishing just behind Portland's Trevor Dunbar and Arizona's Stephen Sambu.

"Michael actually led into the final 50 meters, but nevertheless had his best cross country race ever," Sandoval said.

Coe was one of four runners to place in the top 20, and all five scorers ended in the top 30. Steve Sodaro was the second Bear across the line in 14th, followed closely by Kari Karlsson. Sodaro moved up two spots from his 2009 result, when he led Cal with a 16th-place finish. Karlsson was also six places better than he was last fall.

On the women's side, Deborah Maier's runner-up finish led the team and highlighted an upward trend in her regional finishes. Over her career, Maier has improved each season, going from 39th as a freshman in 2008 to 14th in 2009 to this year's second-place result. The only runner Maier did not surpass was Oregon's Jordan Hasay, who also took the individual title at the Pac-10 Championship on Oct. 30.

"Deborah's race with Hasay wasn't settled until the last straightaway," Sandoval said. "We're waiting to see if the women get an at-large slot for NCAAs as they have run with so much heart."

Indeed, they have run with a lot of heart, rallying together in the absence of Reilly. As for now, the race is on to see if the Bears qualify for at-large berths to the 30-team NCAA Championships, which will be contested on Nov. 22, in Terre Haute, Ind.


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

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