Bears Get Mixed Results at Classic

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SACRAMENTO - It's too early to say just how good the Cal men's and women's cross country teams will be by season's end.

But if results from the Hornet Harrier Classic this past Saturday are any indication of what to expect from the Bears, the men are on the right path while the women's squad has some catching up to do.

After the meet, both teams were equally optimistic about the upcoming season.

"A lot of people wrote us off," said Cal runner Mike Pestorich, noting the absence of last year's top runner Bolota Asmerom and the graduation of 1999 team captain Peter Gilmore. "I think we're going to surprise a lot of people."

The men finished second, while the women wound up fifth in the five-team field. Stanford captured top honors for both the men and women.

The Cardinal's Joe Urbanski led a 1-2-3 finish for the Stanford men with a time of 20 minutes, 33 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Stanford women secured the first two spots, led by Mariel Ettinger's 17:23.

But don't be fooled by the numbers. Cal was pleased with its efforts.

"I think we performed well," Tiffany Hansen said. "It's early in the season. (The race was) something to to tell us where we're at."

The top performer for the women was Marielle Schlueter. The senior from San Francisco, who joined the Bears after transferring from the University of Portland in January, finished 10th.

"(We're) trying to use this as a training run," Schlueter said after completing the five-kilometer course in 18:55.

Liz Ramirez, Mina Nikanjam, Hansen, Danielle Neils and Dawn Beahm came in 24th, 33rd, 38th, 39th and 41st, respectively.

Cal coach Tony Sandoval was pleased with the team's performance, saying that Harrier Classic was only a practice meet.

"It was nice to get started," Sandoval said. "The new people needed to get their feet wet."

The men saw more success than the women, but were equally guarded about reading too much into the results.

"It was good for early season," Bears runner Jarrell Meier said. "It's going to boost our confidence."

One of the highlights of the race was the fact that three Cal competitors managed to finish ahead of several of the powerhouse Stanford runners.

The feat did not go unnoticed by Sandoval, but the coach kept the accomplishment in perspective.

"I don't think you can read too much into it," Sandoval said. "Stanford didn't have their whole team."

Nevertheless, Sandoval does realize that remaining competitive with the Card was a big stride in Cal's development.

"Even (Stanford's) 'B' team is better than some collegiate teams," Sandoval said.

Meier looks at the results as a step in the right direction.

"This let us know we can run with them," Meier said. "They're not 'The Machine' like they call themselves."

Cal's Martin Conrad put the first dent in the Cardinal armor. Conrad completed the four-mile course in 20:44 to finish seventh.

Nick Martin and Meier earned 11th and 12th places, respectively.

Chris Coffee, John Collin, Pestorich, and Nick Shaffer completed the Cal finishers.

Another reason both squads were encouraged by their results is that neither squad had a full team.

The men were without Corey Creasey, who was given the weekend off, and Asmerom, who is preparing to run for his native Eritrea in the Olympics later this month.

Asmerom might join the team later in the season, but his status is uncertain until October.

On the women's side, Cal was without Erin Belger and Mary Moore, two of the team's top returners.


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