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Men’s cross-country hits the trail for 2015

Kenta Mcafee

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For Chico State athletics, 2014 was an overall great year for sports, but one of the biggest successes was for the men’s cross-country team. The team found success in the 2014 season, continuing the streak of winning CCAA title’s with its 13th straight victory. The team also succeeded in winning the last 11 of 13 West Regional titles with its 11th in 2014.

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The Chico State men's cross-country team gears up for the 2015 season in Lake Tahoe. Photo courtesy of Gary Towne.

The Wildcats were successful in the CCAA conference, but fell short of reclaiming their prized top 10 title in the NCAA championships. The team’s heartbreak took place at the end of the 2014 season in Louisville, Kentucky, during a rainy race that resulted in a 14th place finish. Last season was the first in 15 seasons that Chico State did not finish in the top 10 for the NCAA championships with the streak running from 1999 to 2013.

Despite the loss of not making the top 10 for the first time in 15 years, head coach Gary Towne is confident in the Wildcats’ ability to reclaim their rank.

“This year we have some real firepower,” Towne said.

While several of the team leaders are gone, including 2014 All-American Johnny Sanchez, the Wildcats are hopeful for a successful 2015 season. With a young and untested team filled with talent, Towne is feeling good about this season.

Towne feels confident about the young runners joining the pack this season.

“We never really have a rebuilding process. We’re always a younger team who supports itself through every one of our runners,” Towne said.

While every sport looks to its players to do their own part, a key part of every team is the general they follow into battle. In Towne’s case it couldn’t be more true, as many of the runners feel his leadership has led to the team’s success.

The cross-country team will be kicking off the season by participating in the Ash Creek Invitational 4K on September 11, at 5:15 p.m., in Monmouth, Oregon.

“We have a good core group, and we have high hopes and expectations,” Towne said.

Many teammates feel excited about the Ash Creek Invitational 4k, which is 2,000 meters shorter than the usual 6k runs they enter. With a shorter-than-normal first meet, the team is eagerly approaching their season opener in full force as they train hard this offseason.

In order to train for the team’s first meet, the cross-country team has spent much of its offseason running, which included a trip to Lake Tahoe.

“It was high altitude, and we got in a lot of miles. It really helped to bring about the comradery,” Aaron Mora, a veteran runner, said.

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The Chico State men's cross-country team is ready for the season after a long run during a trip to Lake Tahoe. Photo courtesy of Gary Towne.

With great confidence in each other and their head coach, the Wildcats look to have a winning stride coming into the 2015 season.

“We want each other to succeed, and even though we all want to be the best, we each play our part. I know that we can’t be beat as a team,” Mora said.

Kenta McAfee can be reached at [email protected] or @Kentamcafee on Twitter.

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Men’s cross-country hits the trail for 2015