Jessica Ruiz (left) and Brianna Jacklin. Photo Credit Matt Brown.

Cross Country Heads to Riverside for Big West Championships

Meet Central

FULLERTON, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton men's and women's cross country begin the championship portion of the 2017 cross country season on Saturday morning. UC Riverside is hosting the Big West Championships at the UCR Agricultural Operations Course with the women's 6K beginning at 8:30 a.m. PT and the men's 8K starting at 9:15 a.m. PT.

The Titans will compete against the host UC Riverside, Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, Long Beach State, UC Davis, Cal State Northridge and Hawaii (women's team only).

"This is why we do what we do," head coach John Elders said. "All the blood, sweat and tears is for the championship season. I think our kids are prepared, I think we're ready to go and hopefully we can come away with some historic performances."

The Titans return eight student-athletes from the men's squad that took third place at the 2016 Big West Championships. That third-place finish was the team's best finish at the league championships since 1993. The women's team welcomes back six student-athletes from the 2016 squad that took fourth place at the league championships.

Cal Poly swept the men's and women's titles at the 2016 championships and had the two individual champions as well.

The women's squad earned a second-place finish among Division I teams in the season-opening race at the Mark Covert Classic (Sep. 2) and then finished in eighth place at a very competitive UC Riverside Invitational (Sep. 16). The Titans earned a ninth-place finish at the Capital Cross Challenge (Sep. 30). At the UCR Highlander Invitational (Oct. 14), the women's team posted a runner-up finish. Freshman Wendi Leos and sophomore Sam Huerta have been the top two finishers for the Titans in each competition thus far. In the final race before championship season, the women's team took it easy during the Titan Invitational (Oct. 20) 6K and earned a second-place finish among DI teams.

The men's team has looked very strong to start off the 2017 season, earning a first-place finish at the Mark Covert Classic and then taking third place among 13 DI teams at the UC Riverside Invitational. The Titans then earned a fourth-place finish at the Capital Cross Challenge. CSF then won the men's 6,000-meter race at the UCR Highlander Invitational. The men's squad rested its top runners for the Titan Invitational, and were led by freshman Ryuya Souther to a second-place finish among DI teams. The men's team has shown its depth throughout the season, as three different student-athletes have been the first Titan to cross the finish line.

"Some of these kids have run this course multiple times over the years and plus this will be our third time running this course this year alone," Elders said. "It definitely helps, although a conference race is different than an invitational race. It will go out different and will feel different. So that part will be different but the ins and outs of the course are the same and it is good to have that experience."

Both teams were ranked No. 15 in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) preseason regional rankings. In the October 16 week five regional rankings, the men's squad is still No. 15 in the west region while the women's team is back in the rankings at No. 15 as well.

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