Women's Cross Country Starts Strong At USF Invite

San Francisco, Calif. - The San Jose State University women's cross country team took third in the women's 5K race at the 15th annual USF Invitational in San Francisco on September 1.

Coaches and team co-captains credited the strong showing to a solid team effort, contributions from an impressive freshman class and steady improvement from returning runners.

"I'm impressed, especially with such a young team," said assistant coach Angela Stearns.

Five runners finished in the top 20 for San Jose State.

Erica Sahli and Marlene Elizalde, both senior co-captains, led the pack for the Spartans. Sahli finished third in the race overall in 18:15.40, while Elizalde turned in a sixth-place finish in the field with a time of 18:33.80.

"I'm confident because I started healthy," said Elizalde. She missed the USF Invitational last year due to a twisted ankle.

Junior Jenna Hicks finished seventh overall in 18:39.60, nearly 44 seconds faster than her time in last year's USF Invitational, when she ran 19:23.50. Stearns said Hicks, who graduated from high school in Bakersfield, Calif., stayed in San Jose to train over the summer and it paid off well.

Elizalde said Hicks began to show significant improvement last spring during track meets.

Freshman Arely Marquez finished 15th overall in 18:58.20. Stearns said she expected the newcomer to do well. She added, "Arely is a strong runner." In high school, she placed second in the 1,600 meters at the 2007 Central Coast Section Championships with a lifetime best of 5:04.72.

Junior Nisha Richardson turned in an impressive 19th-place overall finish in 19:05.60.

Annaliza Rizo finished as the sixth runner for the Spartans. She clocked in at 19:25.50. Jessica Gonzales finished as the seventh Spartan runner in her first NCAA race. Her time was 19:29.80.

Sahli said, "The team did really well and the freshmen did great for a first race."

Santa Clara University raced to a team victory and Adriane Puetz, running for Santa Clara, marked an individual best time in the field of 17:58.10.

The University of California notched a team second place. San Jose State placed third, while host school University of San Francisco finished fourth and San Francisco State took fifth in a field of eight teams.

Elizalde said in summary of the day, "Everyone did really well, better than expected."

15th Annual USF Invitational
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.

Team Finishes: 1. Santa Clara, 36; 2. California, 47; 3. San Jose State, 49; 4. San Francisco, 101; 5. San Francisco State, 167; 6. Pacific, 170; 7. UC Santa Cruz, 182; 8. Sonoma State, 227.

Top Finishers: 1. Adriana Puetz (Santa Clara) 17:58.10; 2. Chelsea Reilly (California) 18:13.60; 3. Erica Sahli (San Jose State) 18:15.60; 4. Rebecca Yau (California) 18:23.50; 5. Melissa Conlon (Santa Clara) 18:32.50.

San Jose State Finishers: 3. Erica Sahli, 18:15.60; 6. Marlene Elizalde, 18:33.80; 7. Jenna Hicks, 18:39.60; 15. Arely Marquez, 18:58.20; 19. Nisha Richardson, 19:05.60; 24. Annaliza Rizo, 19:25.50; 26. Jessica Gonzales, 19:29.80; 32. Lauren Dubay, 19:39.90; 36. Meaghan Vinton, 20:14.50; 38. Jacqueline Turner, 20:17.90; 43. Brooke Lawrence, 20:32.00; 46. Vanessa Diaz, 20:42.80; 50. Suzanne Hancock, 20:50.20; 51. Lindsay Bryant, 20:50.90; 55. Morgan Hancock, 21:13.40; 71. Rebecca Ulrich. 22:58.10.