San Jose, Calif. - The San José State University men's cross country team open their season this Saturday as it returns five letter winners from a squad that improved its score in every meet they had entered in 2014 from the previous year.
Under the direction of third year coach Brad Wick, the Spartans will travel to the University of San Francisco Invitational. Race time is 10:15 a.m. on September 5, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
Wick is relying on five letter winners from last year's squad. Junior Ben Branagh led the Spartans in four races with, two-time Mountain West cross country athlete of the week, sophomore Josue Gonzalez leading in the other two. Senior Jannik Ernst returns as the most experienced harrier with 11 career meets. Sophomores Craig Huff, who qualified for the U.S. Junior Nationals in the steeplechase, and Ian Young each competed in all the Spartans' meets last year.
"Our roster is pretty small so everyone is definitely looking to contribute," said Wick. "The returners in Ben, Jannik, and Craig will be very important. Josue battled a little bit of an injury last year and he could be a huge plus for us if he could be out there in the top three."
Wick is also looking for three newcomers to contribute and add depth to a strong core. The newcomers include junior Raul Rodarte, a transfer from San Francisco State, sophomore Huruy Zeratsion and freshman Jose Piña. As a junior and senior at San Jose's Lincoln High School, Piña qualified for the CIF state championships and holds the schools records in the 1,600-meters (4:17) and 3,200-meters (9:11).
"It's a big year for our program. We're getting to the point where we have the athletes that can go out there, really push it forward and get over that hump from past years," said the Spartans coach, whose team finished third out of six at last year's USF Invitational.
Not Just Runners
San José State's Academic Progress Rate (APR) score covering the 2011 through 2014 academic years was 1,000, the highest possible score and earned NCAA Public Recognition Award for the program.
The NCAA's Public Recognition Award annually honors those Division I programs committed to academic progress and retention with APR multi-year scores in the top-10 percent of their respective sports.
The APR provides a real-time look at a team's academic success each semester by tracking the academic progress of each scholarship student-athlete. The APR score accounts for eligibility, retention and graduation and provides a measure of each team's academic performance.
Keep up with your San José State men's cross country team this season on social media!
Get highlights and upcoming events via Twitter by following @SanJoseStateTF
Get highlights and see post-meet pictures on Instagram by following @sjsudistance
The team is active on Facebook. See the workout and meet videos via facebook.com/sjsudistance