SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Both the Cal State Fullerton men's and women's cross country teams recorded their best finishes in several years at the Big West Championships on Saturday, as the race was held at Fairbanks Memorial Cross Country Course in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
The championships were hosted in San Luis Obispo for the first time since 2007, and it suited the Titans well as the women, paced by senior Sara Taylor, finished fifth, and the men, led by freshman Jose Penaloza, finished sixth.
For the women, Fullerton's fifth-place score (147 points), marked the best finish for the program since tying for fourth in 2008.
Taylor was the top Titan to finish the 6K course as her time of 23:23.9 was good for 22nd. She was followed by sophomore Emily Taylor, who shortly crossed the finish line in 27th place in a time of 23:40.9. Also scoring for the women included freshman Arianna Fuentes (31st; 23:58.1), and junior Celinda Manzo (32nd; 23:58.8).
"The women's team stepped up and ran a very good race," head coach John Elders said. "By far, this was Sara Taylor's best performance in a championship race for us. Emily (Taylor) ran a great second half of the course to move up, and it was a great effort. I'm very proud of them."
Junior Tijerra Lynch completed the race in a time of 24:27.3, placing 45th in the championships, followed by sophomore Ana Valdovinos, who finished in 48th with a time of 24:33.1. Freshman Amanda Crissinger completed the course in a time of 24:47.2 (52nd), followed by fellow rookie Abby Buckhoff (56th; 25:16.0).
The top seven finishers scored, and Fullerton was without its top runner Katie Bathgate, who did not finish the race.
Cal Poly women's team won clinched its second straight title with 37 points as its top seven runners finished in the top-14. It was the Mustangs fourth overall title, and sophomore Laura Hollander 20:43.9 won her second straight championship finishing a minute faster than UC Davis' Katie Fry in second.
For the men, the Titans' sixth-place finish was the best for the program since 2006 when Fullerton recorded a fifth-place score.
Penaloza led the Titan contingent, completing the 8K course in a time of 26:43.4. Sophomore Jeff Little and junior Jayson Perez were the next Titans to score as Little finished in 35th (27:25.9) and Perez 36th (27:28.0).
"We got a little too far behind in the beginning of the race, and it was too little too late," Elders said. "Jose ran a really solid race, but poor positioning hurt us early on."
Junior Brandon Perry was the next Titan to cross the finish line in a time of 27:44.7, good for 43rd. Junior Sean Graham completed the race in a time of 27:53.4, finishing in 46th, followed by junior Kevin Russell, who crossed the finish line in 48th (27:55.9). The final Titan to score for Fullerton was Donald Bernard, who completed the race in a time of 28:00.3 (51st).
Freshman Gilbert Solorza (52nd; 28:07.3) and freshman Daniel Ramirez (54th: 28:43.7) also competed for Fullerton.
Cal Poly men's cross-country team won its fourth consecutive Big West title as well as its 13th overall and 10th in the last 11 years. The Mustangs produced the top two finishers in defending champion Chris Frias (25:19.5) and Mitchell Moriarty (25:22.8).
The Titans will next complete at the NCAA West Regional Championships on Friday, Nov. 15 in Sacramento, Calif.
2013 Big West Championships
1. Cal Poly (37)
2. UC Davis (44)
3. UC Santa Barbara (62)
4. Long Beach State (125)
5. Cal State Fullerton (147)
6. UC Riverside (158)
7. UC Irvine (180)
8. Cal State Northridge (244)
9. Hawai'i (278)
1. Cal Poly (32)
2. UC Santa Barbara (49)
3. UC Davis (54)
4. Long Beach State (118)
5. UC Irvine (127)
6. Cal State Fullerton (164)
7. UC Riverside (177)
8. Cal State Northridge (253)