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A dozen years of dominance

Greg Silvia

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Photograph by Sam Rivera A group of Wildcats lead the pack early  on in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships Saturday.

Photograph by Sam Rivera
A group of Wildcats lead the pack early on in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships Saturday.

The Chico State men’s cross-country team put on a historic performance at the California Collegiate Athletic Association meet Saturday, recording the first ever perfect score in the 75-year history of the meet.

The women’s cross-country team ran its way into the record books, earning its sixth consecutive conference title.

In front of a roaring home crowd at Hooker Oak Park in Upper Bidwell Park, the Wildcats picked up their 12th consecutive men’s conference championship.  The top six finishers in the men’s race were all Wildcat runners.

Aaron Thomas, Alfonso Cisneros, Johnny Sanchez and senior All-American Isaac Chavez were the top four finishers in the 8-kilometer race. They all crossed the finish line together.

The Wildcat runners showed selflessness, encouraging each other to be the first to finish and take the title. The win was awarded to senior Aaron Thomas.

“We went in the race wanting to keep consistently racing together and keep the gaps close,” Thomas said.

Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 2.51.31 PMOn the women’s side, it was a one-two finish for the Wildcats. Senior Ayla Granados led the pack, claiming the first individual CCAA Championship for the Wildcats since 2011. Sara Mikesell took second place for the ’Cats, who had six runners named to the All-CCAA team.

“As a team, the race went perfectly and individually it went as well as I could have imagined it going,” Granados said.

The 1.15-mile loop course was set up so fans could cheer on runners throughout the entirety of the race, making it a memorable experience for all the competitors.

“It was amazing to have the crowd there to pump us up every lap and going through the tunnels of people screaming ‘CHICO,’” Thomas said. “It felt insane.”

The runners credit their dominant performance to the training regimen set up by legendary head coach Gary Towne, who has adopted an intense regimen of up to 70-80 miles a week, depending on the runner.

“It makes a world of difference for us,” Granados said. “I think it was pretty obvious out there today that the high mileage really pays off for us.”

The awards did not end with team titles Saturday morning, as Gary Towne received Top CCAA head coach for both the men’s and women’s program, his 17th and 16th respectively.

Thomas and Granados also claimed CCAA Runner of the Year. It has been awarded six consecutive times to a Wildcat runner on the men’s team.

Freshman Aaron Mora, who finished ninth Saturday, was named CCAA Freshman of the Year.

The Wildcats now look toward nationals in Spokane, Wash., where the men will try to finish as a top-10 program for the 14th time, while the women aim for their 11th top-10 finish in a row.

 

Greg Silvia can be reached at [email protected] or @gsilvia on Twitter.

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A dozen years of dominance