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Women’s cross-country season preview

Nick Martinez-Esquibel

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Kody Atkins and Nicole Anthony run during practice on Wednesday before hitting the weight room. Photo credit: John Domogma

Since 2002, the Chico State women’s cross-country team has been a staple in the nation’s top 10 cross-country programs.

Until last year.

The team finished 13th in the nation last season to snap its streak of 12 straight finishes inside the top 10.

“It was a little hard to swallow,” senior Olivia Watt said of falling short of a top 10 finish. “But it lit a fire under us, and I think through challenges and disappointment comes hunger.”

Although finishing outside the top 10 at nationals, the team still achieved major accomplishments. Last year marked the women’s seventh CCAA title in a row, and they placed second in the West Regional.

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(from left to right) Wildcat runners Kyle Medina, Nick Grubiss, Falco DiGiallonardo, Caton Avila and Connor Fisher take laps around the track moments after ariving from their practice run to Bidwell Park on Wednesday. Photo credit: John Domogma

“We have a pretty good tradition that we’ve established and have a very capable group,” said Gary Towne, head coach. “Our expectations are, as always, pretty high— maybe even higher than they are in an average year.”

The women’s cross-country team is eager to get back to work and ready to start the new season. With all runners returning except for two, the ‘Cats have an experienced group of runners to compete.

“It means a lot,” Towne said of his returners. “Hopefully it’ll really make the difference as far as what we are able to achieve as we get into the big races of the year.”

Towne only needed a few new runners to bolster the roster. First-year Desirae Jones who was nationally ranked out of Simi Valley, Kayden Carpenter and Jenny Giguere, who was a standout at Westlake High School, are joining the team this season.

The week before school, both the men’s and women’s teams took a trip to Lake Tahoe to gain chemistry as a team. Along with running, the retreat gave the team the opportunity to get closer to each other, and for the first-years, to be welcomed as part of the group.

The team will be lead by top returner, senior Enriquertta Peinado, junior Sadie Gastelum, sophomore Alex Burkhart and senior Olivia Watt.

Peinado was close to a being an All-American last season and was the top finisher last year, Towne said.

Gastelum just missed All-CCAA honors in 2014 and Burkhart had a breakout track and field campaign in the spring, resulting in great success in the steeple chase event.

“I think we’re coming along a lot stronger than we were last year,” Burkhart said. “Everyone has progressed through track season so we’re a little bit more of a fit bunch this year.”

The team will start the season in Monmouth, Oregon on September 11. The team will compete in the Stanford, San Francisco and Doc Adams Invitationals throughout the year, completing its season in Joplin, Missouri on November 21 at the NCAA Cross-Country Championships.

One of the biggest goals for the team is to challenge for a trophy at the NCAA Championships, Towne said. This means the team will have to finish in the top four during the race.

“The thing about cross-country is that championships are made in the summer,” Watt said, “all of us are grinding and ready for the season.”

Nick Martinez-Esquibel can be reached at [email protected] or @THENickMartinez on Twitter

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Women’s cross-country season preview