San Jose, Calif. - The San José State University men's cross country team opens the 2016 season Saturday morning in Golden Gate Park at the 24th San Francisco Cross Country Invitational, an event in which the program has improved its team finish in each of the last three seasons.
Fourth-year head coach Brad Wick’s nine-man roster consists of six returners and three newcomers, who will toe the line for the first time this season at 10:15 a.m. on September 3.
Wick’s six letter-winners include senior Ben Branagh who recorded three top-10 finishes last season, including a sixth at last year’s San Francisco Invitational. Sophomore Jose Piña, who had two top-five results last year and led the team at the Stanford Invitational, Mountain West Championship and NCAA West Regional Championship. Junior Josue Gonzalez who has five top-20 finishes in 20 career races.
“Our top three (Branagh, Piña and Gonzalez) are at a level where I expect them to compete against anyone’s top three,” said head coach Brad Wick. “But at the same time Huruy (Zeratsion), Craig (Huff) and Raul (Rodarte) should be ready to close that gap with the top three. Overall we should be a much stronger squad because we’re more mature.”
Last year Huff recorded his career-best 6K time in the Fresno State Invitational and his second-best 8K time at the Santa Clara Invitational. Rodarte scored in three of the five races he competed in with a season-best 18th place finish at the Fresno Invitational and Zeratsion ran in six races recording his best time in last year’s San Francisco Invitational.
“We run everyday, but we’ve had three workouts including one which was at a progressive tempo,” Wick said. “Everyone was ahead of where they were a year ago, so that indicates to me that coming into the year we are in better shape and are off to a good start going into this weekend race.”
The three newcomers, freshmen Juan Gutierrez and Evaristo Mateo and sophomore Nicholas Liebmann will add depth to a which finished no worse than fourth in any meet event last season and looks to improve even more this season.
“There are a lot of strong teams competing this weekend,” Wick said. “Cal and Stanford will be there and they don’t like to lose to each other, so I think this may be a more tactical race than what we’ve seen in the past. I expect most teams will be holding back a bit and then at the end it will be on. I expect us to be in the mix with everyone else.”
|Event:||24th San Francisco Cross Country Invitational|
|Date:||Saturday, September 3, 2016|
|Time:||Women (6K) – 9:30 a.m.
Men (8K) – 10:15 a.m.
|Site:||Golden Gate Park|
|Course:||A 2K loop composed of grass and dirt trails
with gradual uphills and downhills