Long Beach State cross country teams concluded its 2017 campaign over the weekend at the NCAA West Regional at Jefferson Park Golf Course.
“I accomplished a lot this season,” senior George Martinez said. “Even though I tied my same time as last year, in the end, I was happy.”
Martinez finished first for Long Beach on the men’s side, ran a 31:46.3 and placed 111st overall among 205 other runners. This wasn’t only Martinez’s last race of the season, but the final race of his athletic career.
“I’m sad of course, it’s seven years of my life I devoted to running,” Martinez said. “I’m going to miss it but I’ll continue to run on my own when I can.”
Martinez competed in cross country at the high school, junior and state college level. He ended his career at Long Beach as the top male runner and a key member to the team.
“George is the only one who has ever ran a 10k before,” cross country coach Shawn Winget said. “The inexperience with the other guys really showed.”
Winget believed even though most of the men were did pretty well in the beginning of the race, they weren’t used to the last few miles that were added on in Division I.
“The team is more inexperienced than young,” Winget said. “We have a couple transfers and they’re not used to running such a large distance.”
Ultimately, Long Beach placed 29th overall out of 30 teams. Yet, Martinez holds faith in his teammates and believes they have the potential to take his place as a top runner once he’s gone. Freshman Joey Del Valle Ruthford is a teammate Martinez said to keep an eye on. He finished second for Long Beach, following not far behind Martinez and placing 129th with a run time of 32.17.3. Freshman Ezra Sotelo, came in fourth for Long Beach (33.27.1).
As for the women’s side, Winget mentioned that the goal for women’s cross country was to make the top 25 in the race. They fell short, placing 28th out of the 36 teams that attended, but this didn’t change Winget’s mind about the potential this team shows for next year.
“I’m excited to build and grow,” Winget said. “We know what to do to get better, we have to stay healthy and continue to get faster.”
Junior Mikayla Florez, who redshirted last year due to injury, surpassed her run time from the 2015 NCAA by over two minutes (23:39.8), receiving a time of 21:47.7 on Friday. Despite the huge improvement and progress seen from Florez this season, she remained humble, stating that the NCAA wasn’t her best run.
“It didn’t go as well as I expected it to go,” Florez said. “It’s a mixture of feelings, collectively the team has gotten a lot better but I know we can still improve individually.”
Florez placed 104th overall, coming in first for the women’s side. She broke her personal record in every race except the NCAA. Florez mentioned that she got a little too comfortable coming off the Big West Conference meet.
“I got lost in the mix of runners,” Florez said. “But now I know the little changes I need to make in order to better myself for this next cross country season and upcoming track season.”
The runners have a week of rest before they begin training for the 2017-18 track season. Florez believes that since track and field holds a larger variety of distances, the team will excel running shorter distances.
“Cross country never has an off-season,” Winget said. “We go straight into the track seasons, and over our summer we begin training again for cross country.”
With the same runners coming back next season Winget is excited for the off-season, where he mentioned that the team can make the biggest amount of progress.