At the Fairbanks Cross Country Course on Saturday morning, history repeated itself because for the second straight year, Laura Hollander and Chris Frias won the Big West cross country individual titles, and the Cal Poly men and women won the team titles.
Hollander ran in just her second race all year because of inflammation in her left knee, but looked like she had been running all year as she shattered the course record and won the race by more than a minute. Hollander finished the hilly 6K course in 20 minutes, 43.9 seconds, beating the previous course record held by Megan Lewis of UC Santa Barbara in 2007 by 32 seconds. Katie Fry of UC Davis was second in 21:49.5.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to run until a few days ago,” Hollander said. “My left side hurts when I run, but I wanted to come through for the team and have us repeat as champions.”
Hollander said she was nervous, but a misfire of the starting gun and a race restart helped to calm her nerves. Hollander had a 15-second lead one kilometer into the race and a minute lead by the 4K mark. Her only other race of the year was a 5K on Aug. 31.
The women’s team title was more in doubt between Cal Poly and UC Davis than the individual title. The Mustangs women finished in a pack to clinch it and finished with 37 points, ahead of UC Davis (44) and UC Santa Barbara (62).
Cal Poly’s Diana George finished in sixth (22:03.0), ahead of UC Davis’ Sarah Sumpter and Alycia Cridebring, who finished second and third, respectively, in last season’s conference meet. Rachel Bush was ninth (22:17.4) for Cal Poly, Ashley Windsor was 10th (22:22.8) and Sara Van Dyke was 11th (22:26.6).
San Luis Obispo High graduate Christine Hoffmann was 16th for UC Davis in 22:57.0.
The men’s individual race was much tighter than the women’s race as Frias finished the 8K course in 25:19.5, ahead of teammate Mitch Moriarty, who finished in 25:22.8.
Frias finished seven seconds off the course record set by Cal Poly’s Phillip Reid in 2007.
“It was a team effort. I pulled away from Mitch at the 4-mile mark, but he came right back on the downhill. Everyone stepped up today,” said Frias, who ran the 5K course three times in high school and the 8K course once during his freshman year.
Roughly halfway through the race, UC Santa Barbara had four runners in the top 10, but the Mustangs came back to capture their third straight Big West title and 10th title in the past 11 years. Cal Poly won with 32 points. UC Santa Barbara had 49 and UC Davis had 54.
“It was the raw spirit of how a team race should be run,” Moriarty said. “This course was basically unknown territory to the rest of conference, so we were pretty confident. We knew we could beat Santa Barbara because we had done so pretty much every time we ran against them.”
Senior Sean Davidson was fourth for Cal Poly in 25:31.2. Tyler Huntley was 11th in 26:17.4, and Dimitri Voytilla was 14th in 26:26.2.
“I can’t say enough about how the team performed today,” Cal Poly head coach Mark Conover said. “Laura kept herself fit until she looked comfortable enough to run. She really wanted to help the team defend its title. The guys were real aggressive on the S-turns and were impressive up front.”
Cal Poly is off until the NCAA West Regional on Nov. 13 in Sacramento. Cal Poly already raced at that course Oct. 4.