Friday, Cal cross country is set to race in the NCAA West Regional championships in Washington. After a hard fought season — defined by personal records but overall mixed results — Friday’s race will likely be Cal’s last of the 2022 season.
The Western division features top-notch and zealous competition with a total of 33 men’s and 38 women’s teams racing on Friday. Within the division, the Stanford men’s team is ranked No. 1 and Washington at No. 2. On the women’s side, Oregon is ranked No. 1, while Stanford is ranked No. 2. While Cal has raced alongside some of the teams they will face Friday, there will be many new teams and fresh faces on the course.
“Not only are we facing the best in the Pac-12, but all the other combined regions in the whole West, so it is going to be a fun experience, and usually the West brings in a big punch,” said junior Gabriel Abbes.
Unlike previous races this season, Friday’s will be 2k longer, with the women running 6k and the men running 10k. Not only will this longer distance present a physical challenge, but runners will also be faced with mental trials — putting their mental toughness to the test.
“It will be a good experience for individual-based type running methods. You are going to have to be really mental in that race: You are doing 2k extra and you are also going to be pretty much alone, so preparing for that experience, that setting, is going to be crucial,” Abbes said.
The Bears will be sending 14 runners to race, with an even split between the men’s and women’s teams. On the men’s squad, the Bears will be looking to Garrett MacQuiddy, the team’s top-finisher at last year’s regional race, along with Abbes and second Cal-finisher at the Pac-12 race sophomore Landen Lee to lead the way.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, junior Claire Yerby will be leading the women’s squad heading into Friday’s race. Fans should also expect a strong performance from rookie Georgia McCorkle, who crossed the finish line behind Yerby at the Pac-12 championships.
Despite the team’s low-place finish at the Pac-12 championships, Friday’s race will undoubtedly be valuable experience for the particularly young squad.
The race will take place at Chambers Creek Regional Park in University Place, Washington — a course unfamiliar to many Bears. In the weeks leading up to Friday’s championship, Abbes commented on the importance of visualization in the team’s preparation for the race.
“When you get on the course, it should not be your first experience there, even if you are new. You should have visualized it multiple times before and that is going to be our goal coming up to the race,” said Abbes.
In spite of the team’s finish at the Pac-12 championships, the Bears hope to work up the ranks on Friday and find themselves in a higher placement. The women’s 6k will take place at 10:00 a.m. and the men’s 10k just an hour later at 11:00 a.m. Although Chambers Bay will likely be the teams’ last race of the season, the Bears will put their best cleat forward and hope to walk away with valuable experience.