Matadors Look for Improvement at Big West Cross Country Championships

The Cal State Northridge men's and women's cross country teams will head to the UC Riverside Farm Course this Saturday for the 2011 edition of the Big West Championship.

The conference championship meet is slated for Saturday, Oct. 29 at the UC Riverside Ag/Ops Course for the fourth consecutive year, seventh time overall. The men's 8K begins at 8:45 a.m. and is followed by the women's 6K at 9:35 a.m. An awards ceremony will begin shortly following the conclusion of the womens race.

The Matadors will send full teams of nine men and nine women to the championships and both teams will look to improve upon last season's eighth-place finishes.

"I'm antcipating us going out and performing better this Saturday," said head coach Avery Anderson. "The athletes this season have the mentality to realize they can go into this championship meet and perform."

The Matador women have finished as high as seventh three times since 2001 while the men have never been higher than eighth.

Hunter Hays and Cesar Lopez come in as the men's top runners as both have finished as CSUN's top runners in meets this season. Also competing for the Matadors: Ezekial Glass, Daniel Gonzales, Marvin Gonzales, Steven Gonzales, Masis Hagobian, Tawei Ma and Julio Mora.

Fany Alvarado and Yvonne Castillo-Urbina have been the Matadors' most consistent runners on the women's side, although Ana Rosales was CSUN's top finisher at the most recent meet in Northridge on Oct. 15. Also competing for the Matador women: Vanessa Carr, Jasmine Cox, Shane Mullany-Banks, LeGia Pendergraph, Kendahl Waalk and Araceli Zainos.

The UC Davis men, headlined by Jon Peterson's top time of 23:40.2, won the 2010 title and looks to be a top contender once again this year. Peterson is back for his final season and is primed to lead the Aggies to a repeat championship after posting the second fastest time of the season in the conference for the 8K (23:22) on Sept. 24.

Also look for host UC Riverside to make a run for its first-ever Big West Men's Cross Country Championship. Aside from having a slight edge with the event taking place on their home course, the Highlanders recorded three of the top 10 performances in the Big West this year, including Chad Halls peak performance of 23:18.91 at the Bill Delinger Invitational. Hall owns the fastest time in the conference, while teammates Talal Khan and Seth Totten rank seventh and ninth. The Highlander men's program finished second in 2010 and has been in the top four the three years prior.

On the women's side, UC Santa Barbara took home the title with the help of Amanda Moreno, Breanne Strenkowski and Crystal Reed, who finished one-two-three in last year's event. Unfortunately the trio of superstars graduated, living the Gauchos a huge void to fill. UC Santa Barbara seems to have a successful recovery from the loss in the offseason as the Gauchos own five of the top 10 performances of the season. Headlining the defending champions is junior Andrea Jacobs with a time of 21:09.8 in the 6K, good enough for fifth in the league. Sarah Vitug, Ashley Beechan, Callie Mulgannon and Ari Selix follow close behind with only Cal Polys Meghan Breadmore interrupting the UC Santa Barbara domination in the lower half of the top ten with a seventh place time.

UC Riverside's Katy Daly holds the top time of the season in the women's 6K with a mark of 20:56.5 at the Riverside Invitational, which was run on the same course as the upcoming Big West Championship. The UCR women's team is looking to win its second conference title as the Highlanders claimed the 2008 championship but finished 5th in 2009 and 4th in 2010.

"This is a great cross country conference and our men and women are going in with the mentality of can I do better than in recent years, said Anderson. "Our goal is for everyone to PR and to also realize they're doing it for their team. Everyone has the capability of being competitive."

- GO MATADORS -