Elizabeth Nelson captured some of the spotlight for CSUN at the Big West Cross Country Championships by finishing third in the Women’s 6k race on a gloomy Saturday morning, Nov. 1 at UC Riverside.
She tied the best finish by a CSUN runner at the Big West Championship clocking in the third place slot with a 20:27.2 time. It was the highest finish for a female runner since Lilyana Morejon in 2009 and Liz Camy in the 2005 conference championship, according to Go Matadors.
Nelson’s finish caps off a season where she finished top-10 in the prestigious Stanford Invitational and also won two meets outright, according to Go Matadors.
Before the race, Nelson said she expected personal records for the team because the rain packed the mud for a faster course.
Once the race ended, Nelson validated her prediction of a fast course and said she finished better than her own expectations. Nelson was also happy for her teammates.
“Our team looked really competitive, and I am really proud of them,” said Nelson. “ It looked like all of them PRed (Personal records).”
As a team, the women tied a program high by finishing sixth with 150 points just behind the fourth place Cal State Fullerton Titans with 149.
Raquel Hefflin finished in first on her home course with 20:12.6 time, as her UC Riverside Highlanders finished third overall.
UC Davis took the team competition with 36 points, and the defending champions Cal Poly Pomona Mustangs’ 66 points placed them in second.
After Nelson, the next best Matador individual was senior Megan Magdaleno who finished No.33 with a 22:15.7. Then it was sophomore Rachel Duriez with 22:47.9 in 42nd place.
Women’s coach Eleazar Hernandez was happy with the women’s best effort, evident by a lot of personal records.
Hernandez said Nelson’s finish can show recruits that the program continues moving forward.
“Last year when we were recruiting and trying to bring top girls to run for the school, they would see the times and they didn’t see anything fast for like six years.” Hernandez said. “At the end of the day, they decided not to come.”
However, he said this type of team performance helps future recruiting. The women’s coach expects the team to finish top four in the conference next season.
As for the men’s cross country team, the Matadors finished last as a team in the 8k contest with 218 points and an average time of 26:11.82.
The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (21 points) showcased dominance with four runners finishing in the top five as they snatched the team title. Second place Cal Poly (49 Points) had four racers in the top ten of the men’s race.
Junior Angel Alcantar (25:19.7) and freshmen Geofry Sarco (25:32.4) highlighted the men’s individual performers by finishing 32nd and 41st respectively for CSUN.
Alcantar was satisfied with his results and he said the rain had no effect on his performance.
“When the rain hits me, it actually motivates me more to keep going,” Alcantar said.
Despite having six runners perform in the bottom ten of the standings, men’s coach Steve Laguna was optimistic about the future of the men’s team.
Laguna put the eighth place finish into perspective by saying the team improved tremendously from where they were the year before. He also cited that the team competed with four of the nine freshmen in the entire race, more than any other team in the conference.
“We got to look at the positives and realize we are making progress, and moving in the right direction after a lot of years where we haven’t even really been competitive.”
Sarco finished third among freshmen who raced. Laguna said he’s excited to get Sarco and the rest of the Matadors’ young squad back next year.
The championship concludes a CSUN season where the women Matadors’ highest finish was third place in the Aztec Invitational Sept. 20, while the men’s highest team placing was No. 7 in the San Francisco Invitational Aug. 30.