CSUN cross-country struggles to start season

Sophomore Daniel Rodriguez races to try and catch the California Baptist University runner at the Anteater Opener at UC Irvine on Sept. 1.

David Nunez, Reporter

Off to a slow start with a last-place finish in their first meet of the season, CSUN men’s and women’s cross-country teams came into the race Sept. 17 looking to avenge their defeat, but the struggles continued on the track.

The Matadors raced at the UC Riverside Invitational on Sept. 17. The men’s team finished in 23rd place with its top finisher being freshman Camilo Torres, and the women’s team finished in 31st place and had freshman Nicole Contreras as its top finisher.

Torres stamped his name in CSUN’s history books and recorded the Matadors’ eighth-fastest finishing time in the 8-kilometer race competition since 2000. He finished in 91st place with a time of 24 minutes, 59.5 seconds.

“It’s a five-mile race course, so he was running under five minutes every mile, and that’s big time,” said CSUN men’s and women’s cross-country assistant coach Devin Elizondo.

The UC Riverside Invitational was the biggest race of the year so far for the Matadors. On the men’s side, there were 34 teams competing with a total of 272 athletes running. On the women’s side, 35 teams competed and 268 athletes ran the course.

Nicole Contreras races at the Anteater Opener at UC Irvine on Sept. 1. (CSUN Athletic Department)

“It’s a championship level race, the Pac-12 championship meet is going to be raced on this course as well, along with our Big West championship course,” said Elizondo. “We had some Pac-12 teams there, everybody except Cal State Bakersfield was out there, and we kind of got a preview of what’s ahead of us.”

These races were a step up from the last-place finishes of both squads in the Anteater Opener on Sept. 1. For the women’s side, Contreras led the way with a time of 16:17.6 in the 4K. The men’s race spanned six kilometers, and it was veteran Daniel Rodriguez who led the pack, crossing the finish line with a time of 19:43.8.

Both the men’s and women’s teams have seen significant changes to their rosters. The women’s team lost seniors Elizabeth Silengo and Joy Bosede, and has added five newcomers — sophomore Contreras, junior Mariah Changco, junior Torrie Freeman, junior Faith Mora and freshman Rachael Simpson.

The men’s team lost Quinn Garity, who ran consistently in the 25-minute range, but added eight newcomers this year — freshmen Torres, Pablo Abrego, Cesar Cuevas, Atticus Hall, Ja’Patrick Smith and Kai Smith, as well as juniors Balmore Montes and Luis Silva.

“I look at the group in overall youth. Six of the eight men have never raced the collegiate 8K distance before, but we still beat our team time from last year’s race at this course,” said Elizondo. “That just shows me we have depth. The core of our group is really strong.”

The main focus for Elizondo and the roster this year is to bring out the potential of every runner by helping them adapt to collegiate-level competition.

“We have Pepperdine in two weeks, the Bronco up near Santa Clara, and then the Big West, so that’s two, four, six weeks of training and three races along the way,” said Elizondo. “That’s a good training block for the next few months.”

The Matadors are looking to push their limits further in their next race at the Waves Invitational at Pepperdine University on Oct. 1.