The Long Beach State cross country team will be competing at the Big West Conference Championship this Saturday in Riverside.
The Riverside course — a packed, dirt surface and mostly flat — suits LBSU, head coach Patrick Cunniff said, adding that the 49ers are a speed and track-based team.
“It allows us to get in a good rhythm,” Cunniff said.
“We are coming into the championship well rested, doing short and fast training throughout the week. I asked them to get schoolwork done early, and set goals they want to accomplish.”
The Beach used the past meets as a preparation for the championship meet.
“It has been a steady progression for the team,” Cunniff said.
The 49ers will be on the lookout for the two favorites: UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly.
“Really strong teams in the conference, it has been a strong season up to this point,” Cunniff said. “I’m eager to get in the race, I am excited to see what we can do.”
UC Davis is also among the favorites to win the Big West Championship. Cal Poly is the defending champion, having collected their seventh consecutive title last season.
“John Peterson (UCD) and Chad Hall (UC Riverside) are individual standouts to look out for,” Cunniff said.
Peterson was the men’s individual winner at the Bronco Invitational (23:45.1) and led his team to third place. Hall has won conference athlete of the week three times this season.
For The Beach, Matt Maldonado will be the front-runner. Maldonado placed 46th at the Bronco Invitational (24:51.5). The 49ers will be entering a squad of nine men in the conference meet.
“The nine-man team gives us confidence, it helps us in a very competitive field, and also gives us more of a chance to place,” Cunniff said.
UCSB, the defending champions, is the No. 1-ranked team in the conference.
“Cal Poly will be another team look out for,” Cunniff said.
For LBSU, Rosa Del Toro will be entering the race with a stellar season already under her belt. The junior finished first at the Aztec Invitational (18:02.3) and seventh at the Bronco Invitational (17:16.6). Del Toro has also won conference athlete of the week twice this season.
Earlier in the year, sophomore Nina Moore finished second behind Del Toro in the Aztec Invitational and followed closely behind in the Stanford Invitational. Moore is the reigning individual champion at the junior college level. T
he duo helped pace LBSU, and led the team early in the season.
The women’s squad will be running under the lead of senior captain Jennifer Rodriguez, who ran a personal best at the Bronco Invitational (17:23).
The women’s 6,000-meter race is scheduled to begin at 8:45 a.m., while the men’s 8,000-meter race is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the UCR Agricultural Operations Course.