Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
RIVERSIDE, Calif. –The Whittier College Men's and Women's Cross Country teams took on some of the top NCAA Div. I distance runners on Saturday at the 37th running of UC Riverside's annual invitational. The men placed 26th of 41 teams in the elite invitational division won by No. 4 Div. I Southern Utah University, while the women posted an 18th place score among 43 teams in the open division, won by the Arkansas Razorbacks, also a top Div. I ranked program.
Leading the men was junior Julian Sandoval's (El Monte, Calif.) debut of 24:33 5-mile performance, which was good for 16th place of 262 finishers. Sandoval's time was the fastest cross country performance by any Poet Harrier in Coach Greg Phillips' 33-year tenure at the college. The previous best was Matthew Stuart's 1999 Nationals time recorded in the 24:40 range. Sandoval also came in as the top SCIAC finisher on the day, with all eight programs taking part. "Julian was feeling good today and it's a race I'll forever remember," wrote Phillips.
Freshman Benjamin White (La Habra Heights, Calif.) picked up where he left off from last week at Biola's invitational, and then some. The Poet rookie missed Whittier's freshman course record (Marco Godinez, 2011) by less than a second. His time was 25:44. Also making his 2017 debut was William Howells (Webster Grove, MO), a national qualifier last season, who clocked in nearly a minute faster compared to his mid-September race of 2016. Howells posted a low 26-minute clocking. A fourth noteworthy performance was senior KamRon Perry's (San Jose, Calif.) huge personal best of 28:30. In addition, rookies Dylan Highducheck (Gardena, Calif.), Maxwell Koszowski (Denver, CO), and Ryan Orton (Ontario, Calif.) completed the Poet scoring all pushing one another across the finish line in low-to-mid 30 minute times. "Breaking 30 minutes is the goal next time," commented Highducheck.
Leading the women were familiar faces in seniors Julissa Tobias (Norwalk, Calif.) and Jessica Iribe (Buena Park, Calif.). The Poet racing buddies traded places throughout the course and crossed the finish line in 31st (18:24 5K) and 41st (18:35) place of 282 finishers. Both Poets broke the Whittier course record formerly held by national qualifier Christine Verduzco (2012). "I wanted to do better," Iribe said "but it's okay for now because what's most important is SCIAC Championships." The six Poets following the two seniors across the finish line all achieved personal bests. Anahy Covarrubias (Los Angeles, Calif.), Jessica McCollum (Engleton, CO), Melissa Tobias (Norwalk, Calif.), Esmeralda Martinez (Pomona, Calif.), Dan'Nyce Worthy-Mays (Ontario, Calif.), and Samantha Sison (Whittier, Calif.).
The Poet Cross Country teams will embark next upon a rigorous 10-day training cycle prior to the SCIAC Multi-Duals, which will take place on September 29, at La Mirada Regional Park.