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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

What’s to Come for Chico State Cross Country

Senior Teddy Kassa focuses on the race. Image courtesy of Chico Wildcats.

Often times when one thinks of dominate collegiate programs they think of Alabama Football, University of Connecticut’s Women’s Basketball and Duke’s Men’s Basketball. Few in Chico are aware of their own collegiate powerhouse, that powerhouse being Chico State Cross-Country.

Now in his 23rd season as head coach of the team, coach Gary Towne, has enjoyed a stretch of dominance unseen of in college athletics.

This brilliance has stretched through three decades. Culminating in 37 of Coach Towne’s Cross-Country teams ranking in the top 10 nationally (21 in men’s and 16 in women’s). The 24 time California Collegiate Athletic Association coach of the year, as well as 19 time West Region coach of the year given by the United States Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association, looks to keep up this success and extend his streak of 16 straight CCAA Championships for men, and 10 straight (14 since 2002) for women.

Sophomore Haley Boynton competes in a tournament last fall. Image courtesy of Chico Wildcats.

However, set backs have already occurred, as coach Towne has not been able to join his team due to an accident sustained during the final day of the team’s training camp in Lake Tahoe. The day before classes started, coach Towne had his hip re-built and had five broken ribs.

“It’s ironic because during the last days of training camp we talk about our training and why we do what we do.” Towne said. “This gives them the chance to take a more personal role in their training. They have to buy in more. Instead of just doing what coach says, and everyone has to step up now. This will lead to an overall better understanding of what must be done this year.”

Coach Towne hopes to join the team as soon as possible. But he is confident, nonetheless, his team has the potential to place top three in regionals and earn an automatic spot in the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship. As well as welcoming a big group of young athletes.

With 24 freshmen, there are a lot of new faces. Also, with some seniors graduating, such as nine time All-American, Kyle Medina. This will be a growing period for this team to maximize the potential of their talent.

Jack Johnson[2] copy.jpg
Jack Johnson #145 crosses the finish line with teammate's Eddie King and Connor Fisher #135 closely behind. Image courtesy of Chico Wildcats.

Looking to anchor this weight are some familiar faces. Stars like senior All-American in Track and All CCAA and West Region in cross-country in 2017 Jack Johnson; as well as senior Track All-American in 5k and All-American CCAA cross-country, Eddie King.

“I think a lot of it is experience and getting that consistency behind me, because I didn’t come in running a lot. Being able to run a lot more miles consistently has helped build me up.” King said on how he has improved and is looking to improve this season. “Doing everything at my own pace too because there are some people that come and try to compete with the top guys. They’re just not ready, don’t get the right training in and they just kinda burn out and they don’t improve as much. Gary does a really good job in tailoring what will make someone grow the best. I’ve done a good job listening to him and that’s put me to where I am now.”

Not to be out shined by the men, the women’s side has some returning names to prove why Chico State women’s Cross-Country finished fourth in the country among all Division II schools. All CCAA senior Karlie Garcia, All CCAA and All West Region Cross-Country junior, Nora Pizzella and All CCAA cross-country junior, Kayden Carpenter are here to make noise and find a place on the podium this year.

The loss of 2017 Athlete of the year, Hannah Dorman will be felt. Although, Carpenter feels they have the tools this season to be even better than years prior despite the big losses.“We have some pretty strong girls. If anything, coach Towne has a team of fighters and grinders, people who go out there and get the job done. Whether it hurts or not and you can really see that in the team this year,” Carpenter said, “my hope is that we do better than fourth at Nationals. I think we definitely can. It’s just a matter if everyone is healthy by the end of the season. I think especially with Karlie Garcia coming back, we have a huge chance at making an improvement on the podium this year.”

Senior Karlie Garcia paces the pack during a tournament last fall. Image courtesy of Chico Wildcats.

Besides being incredible athletes, the student side is not to be overlooked. Coach Towne makes it a goal to make sure his student-athletes succeed on the Cross-Country path as well as the academic path.

“It’s hard, but when you’re succeeding in academics you’re succeeding in athletics. I have this idea that if you are not doing well in one you can’t do well in the other because of where your mindset kinda is,” Junior Nora Pizzella said, “I think if you just have a positive mindset and as runners I think we have that kind of grind/endurance type thing. Late at night when you’re working on homework and you’re tired it’s hard. It’s the same type of thing: you endure through it, you work hard, you get It done and you take care of business. Like we do out on the course.”

Chico State’s Cross-Country team is full of scholars and athletes that make up a family as well. This sense of camaraderie is evident.

“You have this group of 60 built in family members walking around campus and that’s so cool,” Pizzella said, “I honestly think being surrounded by such an amazing group of people who care about each other, care about the sport and want each other to succeed is the best.”

Coach Towne had similar praise for his family-oriented team. Despite Towne’s inability to come to the team, the team went to him in place of their practice on Sunday, Sept. 9. The event also served as a reunion with his group.

The Chico State Cross-Country team is so much more than a team. They are a family.

The Wildcats will be in action for the first time this season on Saturday, Sept. 29th in Sacramento. The time for the event is to be announced later. Keep up with or go see the Wildcats compete at the Capital Cross Challenge.

Ricardo Tovar can be reached at [email protected] or @rtovarg13 on Twitter.

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    Diego Hernandez Gonzalez // Sep 12, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Keep up the great work !