Cal Poly freshman Laura Hollander’s impressive cross country season got even better Friday.
The true freshman from Huntington Beach’s Marina High won the 6K race at the prestigious Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis., in 19 minutes, 33 seconds, finishing two seconds ahead of Iowa State’s Betsy Saina (19:35).
Weber State’s Amber Henry was third in 19:43, and Iowa State’s Meaghan Nelson finished fourth in 19:45.
“Certainly Laura’s workouts indicated she was at a very high level of fitness and doing some very good training,” Cal Poly head coach Mark Conover said. “That indicated to me that she was ready to run well.
“In a race like this, to run from the front from the get-go and win it, you never necessarily predict that. Her workout and persona foresaw to me that she was going to have a positive race. To go win a race like this and run a meet-record time is a testament to her given ability and her coachability. She is a student of the sport and very eager to improve and learn. She does what she’s told. She has the right demeanor for the sport as far as a nice even-keel approach.”
Hollander, who won her division at last year’s CIF State Cross Country Championships and was second overall at the CIF state meet, is undefeated in three collegiate meets this season. But this was by far her best performance.
She broke the course record of 19:53.8 set by Michigan State’s Emily MacLeod in 2010. The meet record of 19:59.4 was set by Villanova’s Sheila Reid last season. Reid was the NCAA individual winner last season. Former Mission Prep star Jordan Hasay, now a senior at Oregon, ran 20:01.9 at last year’s meet for the second-fastest time in meet history before Friday.
The top 13 finishers in Friday’s race all broke Reid’s meet record.
“A lot of them can thank Laura Hollander for that,” Conover said. “She was the rabbit today and she took it out.”
Cal Poly was running in a loaded 48-team women’s field that included 28 teams ranked in the top 25 or receiving votes in the national poll. The Mustangs finished 32nd with 755 points. Iowa State, led by the 2-4 finish from Saina and Nelson, won the women’s team title with 109 points to 181 for Stanford.
The Cal Poly men finished 30th in a 45-team 8K field with 673 points. Stanford won the men’s team title with 135 points to 145 for runner-up Iona.
Hollander’s performance Friday not only stamps her as an overwhelming favorite to win the Big West Conference title two weeks from today at UC Riverside, but also puts her in the national title conversation for the Nov. 17 NCAA meet in Louisville, Ky. Conover said Hollander took the lead 400 to 600 meters into the race and at one time built up about a 50-meter lead. Saina made a late charge but Hollander was able to hold her off.
“It’s all about looking ahead to the future,” Conover said. “A race like this definitely reveals her ability. … I kind of like to low-key things and I think Laura has the right attitude and demeanor. I think the more we talk about what she did today she’s comprehended it more and more. What a great thrill for someone to win a race like this.
“It was a unique field and she still ran the way she likes to run and it worked.”
Vanessa Hancock also finished in the top 100 for the Mustangs with an 89th-place finish in 20:46.
Cal Poly’s men were led by David Cardona, who finished 68th in the 8K race in 24:07. Teammate Chris Frias was 83rd in 24:13.
Arizona’s Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu were the top two finishers in 23:03 and 23:07, respectively.