Long Beach State cross country keeps moving forward as the women finish the Big West Conference Cross Country Championships in sixth place overall, improving by three positions from last year’s race.
LBSU men’s and women’s cross country are wrapping up the season with only one race left to go after running in the Championship at the UCR Agricultural Operations Course on Saturday, Oct. 28th.
“We tried to put a little more emphasis on the meets,” Cross Country/Distance Coach Shawn Winget said. “When we put more emphasis on every competition, when we get to the ones that count there is improvement.”
Winget talked about the overall team improvement this season and about the whole dynamic of the team being more focused on training and staying healthy.
“We placed higher expectations on ourselves, higher goals,” Winget said. “With everyone improving their places it makes a big difference.”
The biggest improvement overall was seen in the women’s team finishing the Big West with 150 points overall. Winget commended the team for working so well together and having the tightest bond he’s ever seen. Improvement has also been noticed in returning member, junior Mikayla Florez beating her personal best once again this season in the women’s 6,000 meter race with a time of 21:25.4. Florez has impressed everyone with her times after coming off of previous knee surgery and taking a year off during the 2016-2017 season.
“The length of recovery took longer than I had anticipated,” Florez said. “Overall it has pushed me in my races just in the fact that I worked too hard to stop.”
Florez continued by admitting that she holds really high standards for herself and that has pushed her through this entire season, allowing her to accomplish her personal record breaking times.
“Since I didn’t run last year it’s was kind of relieving to not have any times to compare to,” Florez said. “Going into the Championship I felt nervous but confident.”
The men’s cross country took seventh place overall in the Big West rounding up 149 points. Even though this was a lower placement than last year, coach Winget isn’t concerned. He keeps in mind that the team is still new and individually they are all progressing.
Senior runner and current captain for the men’s team, George Martinez, placed ninth for Long Beach in the 8,000 meter with a time of 25:40.8 beating his previous best by 19 seconds in last year’s Sacramento Capital Cross Challenge.
“This is my last year so it was kind of easy to just go all out,” Martinez said. “Being captain this year, I wanted to be a good role model for the team.”
Martinez run times improved immensely compared to last year, allowing him to become the program’s top runner. He mentions that it was a total mindset change and that since it was his last year he wanted to leave the team with a good example of strong work ethic.
“This was the calmest I’d ever been for a championship,” Martinez said. “I was definitely more confident, I showed up to the line calm and collected and I got pretty good results.”
Other top runners for LBSU were freshman Ezra Sotelo (25:28.3) and Joey Del Valle Rutherford (25:40.9) finishing in 28th and 35th respectively for the men’s team. While the women’s team freshman Taylor Owen (21:47.6) and junior Alexis Ceballos (22:04.6) crossed the finish line respectively at 24th and 33rd for the women’s squad.
The Big West Championships ended with UC Santa Barbara’s Jenna Hinkle (20:17.1) taking the individual title for the women. Thomas Madden (24:13.7) of UC Davis captured the individual title for the men race. Cal Poly concurred the men’s overall team Big West title and the women’s title was awarded to UC Santa Barbara.
“We just want to take it to the next level,” Winget said regarding the upcoming NCAA Race taking place on Friday, Nov. 10th. “Hopefully we’ll get some personal records and just improve from the conference meet and have something to build on for next year.”
LBSU runner’s Martinez and Florez are continuing to prepare the same as they have for every race this season. By staying healthy and working hard during practices, they remain confident in their ability to achieve their desired times.
“This is our chance to beat the teams we didn’t beat in conference,” Florez said.
Leaving little to no concern about the weather conditions that might occur when running in Sacramento.
“The rain will affect my time,” Martinez said. “However, that’s when I will stop thinking so much about my time and start concentrating on my placement.”
The runners hold a positive attitude about the season in its entirety and are excited to see how they do at the NCAA.
“We just want to keep moving forward,” Coach Winget said. “Keep improving, it is a process but it’s all about continuing to take that next step.”