Long Beach State cross-country runner Rosa Del Toro became the first individual in program history to win the Big West Conference Cross Country Championship on Saturday morning at the UC Riverside Agricultural Operations Course.
Del Toro made her move to the front of the pack halfway through the women’s 6,000-meter race crossing the finish line in a time of 20:27.0. The Van Nuys native won by six seconds over second-place Sarah Sumpter of UC Davis and 14 seconds over Leanne Fogg of Cal Poly in third.
Del Toro’s mark in the women’s 6K was a new school record as she eclipsed the previous mark by 18 seconds that was set by her last season at the NCAA West Regional in Springfield, Ore.
All nine runners for LBSU recorded personal bests in the 6K as the 49ers finished in second with 61 points, beating two-time defending Big West champion UC Santa Barbara by one point. UC Davis claimed their first team championship, collecting 47 points. This was the highest finish for 49er women since the 2006 conference championship as they placed second with 72 points, finishing behind the Gauchos with 26 points.
Junior Michelle Thompson made All-Big West as she finished in fifth with a time of 20:44.7. Fellow classmate Nina Moore placed 11th with a mark of 21:07.3, followed by freshman Catherine Martinez in 19th at 21:20.3.
Junior Jessica Barnard finished in 25th with a time of 21:28.4, followed by junior Prism Garcia in 36th at 21:55.6 and freshman Madison D’Ornellas rounded out the scoring for LBSU, crossing the line in 51st at 22:44.5.
“It’s a very exciting day,” 49er distance coach Patrick Cunniff said. “It’s clearly a sign that our program is taking the right steps forward. To have Rosa win an individual title represents us in a great way and we’re incredibly proud on how she ran.
“I thought Michelle Thompson ran one of the most amazing races I’ve ever seen, in terms of both how smart she was and how tough she ran. She came into our program as an unknown and now she’s fifth in the Big West.”
The women’s team finished second overall, equaling their most recent best finish in 2006. UC Davis finished first with 47 points to LBSU’s 61 and UC Santa Barbara’s 62. Five Davis runners were among the first 14 finishers.
On the men’s side, sophomore Heath Reedy was the top runner for LBSU as he made his way up from the back of the pack to the front in the last 400 meters in the race to finish in third, recording a new school record in the men’s 8K with a time of 23:47.2. Reedy broke the previous best by three seconds that was set by his own record at this year’s Bronco Invitational in Sunnyvale.
All six top runners for LBSU set personal-bests in the 8K, leading the 49ers to a third-place finish with 69 points. The 49ers finished just one point behind UC Santa Barbara in second. Cal Poly won the team championship with 36 points. This was the highest finish for the 49er men since placing third in the 2005 conference championship.
Senior Matt Maldonado earned All-Big West by placing sixth with a time of 24:03.9. This was Maldonado’s second consecutive top-10 finish at the Big West Championships as he finished in fourth last season.
Junior Jake Dawson crossed the line in 17th with a time of 24:30.1, followed by sophomore Andrew Garcia in 20th with a mark of 24:34.0 and junior Bret Hasvold in 26th at 24:48.7.
Junior Jared Long finished in 32nd with a time of 24:56.3 and fellow classmate Gabe Hilbert rounded out the scoring for the 49ers, placing 44th at 25:27.3.
Freshman Artuto Trejo was 50th (25:54.2) and Cameron Pantoja came in 52nd (25:58.3).
“The guys just battled incredibly well,” Cunniff said. “Heath and Matt stand out as they’re great leaders for our team. Matt has been an amazing individual and has developed so much in our program. But, to have six guys set personal records and finish under 25 minutes, is a great reflection on how the conference is and how the guys are running.”
The 49ers will return to action Saturday, Nov. 12, traveling to Northern California for the NCAA West Regional at the Stanford Golf Course.