The Orion

Men’s cross-country team competes for 13th consecutive title

Samuel Wolfson

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A group of Chico State cross-country runners prepare to cross the finish line at the 2013 California Collegiate Athletic Association championships. Photo courtesy Gary Towne

It seems that head cross-country Coach Gary Towne always finds the recipe for success for his teams. With this year’s batch, he’s going for a baker’s dozen.

The Chico State men’s cross-country team will try to secure its 13th straight California Collegiate Athletic Association championship title Nov. 8 in San Bernardino. The team is currently ranked first in the Western region and third out of all Division II schools.

Eight universities, including Cal Poly Pomona and UC San Diego, will be competing. Each school can enter 10 male runners into the 8K race.

Last year, the CCAA championships took place in Chico, and the top six finishers were Chico State runners. Five out of those six finishers were graduating seniors, leaving behind Johnny Sanchez.

Sanchez, now a senior, said he was the third runner to finish in the Wildcat pack and will never forget that race.

“It had to be one of the most memorable experiences of my running career — a true gratifying experience that I will always remember,” Sanchez said. “The energy from all my friends and family was amazing.”

Sanchez said he now has to look forward and hope to get a repeat this meet.

“I want to bring another team championship home and continue to improve as a team as we prepare for nationals in this second half of the season,” Sanchez said.

Assistant coach Sean Smith said that besides Sanchez, Alex McGuirk has been the best runner on the team this season. McGuirk was named the CCAA Men’s Cross-Country Runner of the Week for Sept. 29-Oct. 5.

McGuirk will be a key contributor after returning from a calf injury during last year’s championships. He finished with a time of 26 minutes, 5 seconds. His fastest time this season is a 24:28.

Aaron Mora, a sophomore, placed ninth last year with a time of 25:10. His fastest time this season is 24:25.

Mora said he can see where people have doubts about the team, but he is certain the team will do well nonetheless.

“This year is a lot different because we have a lot of new faces and names people don’t know,” Mora said. “Some people think we aren’t as good as last year, but I have no doubt we can be a better team.”

Kyle Medina, a sophomore who redshirted all of last year, said he will be running at conference as long as his coach sees that he’s ready to compete at that level.

Alan Cuevas, a senior, said he’s confident in the team’s ability to perform in Southern California. A Wildcat has crossed the line first nine of the past 13 years, and they’d like to keep that going

“I’m approaching the CCAA championships with confidence,” Cuevas said. “We have another solid team that with a good performance should finish the day with our 13th straight CCAA title and seven out of our 10 with all CCAA honors.”

Samuel Wolfson can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_sports on Twitter.

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Men’s cross-country team competes for 13th consecutive title