Hornets preparing for the NCAA Division I Cross Country West Regional

Mike McGough

After a disappointing race at the Big Sky Conference Cross Country Championships in North Dakota, Sacramento State’s team hopes for a bounce back performance when they race Friday at the NCAA Division I Cross Country West Regional, hosted by Stanford.

Only the women’s team will see a full chance for redemption.

After they placed 11th out of the 12 schools that ran at the conference meet, coach Joe Eby decided not to send the men’s team to Stanford, with the exception of senior Jacob Huston. Huston has been a team leader whose efforts this year include a first place overall finish at the Mustang Challenge Sept. 20 in Santa Clarita.

“All of the big schools are going to be there, it’s actually going to be fun,” Huston said. “It’s nice towing up with the big guys, like Oregon, Stanford, ASU [Arizona State University]. All those schools are going to be fun to compete with.”

The choice to end the men’s season early came in light of numerous injury problems that hindered the team down the stretch. Eby emphasized the women’s team cannot dwell on their shortcomings at the conference meet.

“I think the most important thing for us as a group is to kind of put this past weekend [at conference] in the rearview mirror and realize that we can and will run better,” Eby said. “We didn’t really show how good we are and what we can do at the conference championships.”

The women’s race at Stanford will be a 6K. The course consists of three loops on the grass at Stanford’s golf course. Sac State has run the course once this season, taking seventh place out of 21 schools in the Sept. 27 Stanford Invitational.

“It’s all grass, it’s pretty flat,” Senior Veronica Stinnett said of the course. “There’s a couple little hills, but overall it’s a fairly fast course.”

Eby and his runners hope the team’s previous experience at the Stanford Invitational will translate to success at the regional tournament.

“Being able to go back and correct the mistakes that we made the first time around is a huge advantage for us,” Eby said. “Any time you can be more comfortable in the situation you’re in, especially at that kind of a level, the better off you’re going to be.”

Stinnett said the runners had a mix-up and were confused about the course during September’s race.

“This time we are really prepared and we know the course,” Stinnett said. “It makes it a lot easier to mentally visualize before the race.”

Chloe Berlioux, who finished 13th overall in September’s race at Stanford and has led the team in every meet she has competed in this year, figures to be a key runner to watch on Friday.

“All the work is in at this point, and we’re just kind of tuning up and staying fresh,” Berlioux said.

A two-time Big Sky Conference Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week, Berlioux said she hopes the team can place in the top 16 at Stanford.

“Individually, it’s hard to place goals, but I just want to put my best effort out there and see what I can get out of the rest of this cross country season,” Berlioux said.

Eby pointed out a key challenge posed by the race will be the sheer amount of bodies on the course at Stanford. There will be more than 300 runners racing in the West Regional– more than triple the body count of the Big Sky tournament. Eby added that Huston will face adversity in the form of running without a team. Huston said he had not yet spoken to Eby about a specific race plan.

With last Wednesday’s practice marking the team’s final intense workout of the season, Eby said success at Stanford will be a matter of execution.

“I’m just excited to see them race,” Eby said. “This is one of the big meets that we gear up for every year.”

The NCAA Division I Cross Country West Regional will be run at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 14 on Stanford’s golf course.