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Cal Poly Cross Country Opens 2018 Season Saturday in Brea

Cal Poly Cross Country Opens 2018 Season Saturday in Brea

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — With an early opportunity to become familiarized with the terrain of the upcoming Big West Championship course, Cal Poly will begin the 2018 cross country season on Saturday morning, visiting the 33rd annual Mark Covert Classic at Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Brea.

The meet hosted by Cal State Fullerton will begin with the men's 8k at 8:40 a.m. Sept. 1, followed by the women's 5k at 9:15 a.m. Almost two months from now, Carbon Canyon will also serve as the venue for this year's Big West Championships slated for Oct. 27.

CSF last hosted the conference meet in 1997, the most recent time Cal Poly ran on the Orange County course, which consists of multiple loops alternating between a 1k grass inner-loop in the main section of the park and a dirt-trail nature loop. The second nature loop of the men's course includes a 150-meter concrete pathway section.

Carbon Canyon Course Maps
Covert Classic Results / Live
2017 Cal Poly Times / Scores / Placings

The Mustang men's squad is aiming for a rare three-peat this year, ultimately seeking to follow-up on its back-to-back conference championships from 2016 and 2017.

Last season's team won its second consecutive crown with 29 points — 26 up on the rest of the field. The Mustangs, coached by Mark Conover, graduated the Cal Poly Athlete of the Year in Swarnjit Boyal, an NCAA Championship qualifier a season ago, but the third- and fourth-place finishers from the 2017 championships are back: seniors Peter Cotsirilos and Mikey Giguere.

Cotsirilos was also the Big West Cross Country Athlete of the Week on Sept. 9 last season, while Giguere is coming off a spring in which he made his third straight all-conference team for track.

Chas Cook also returns following a seventh-place championship performance as a sophomore, while senior Sean McDermott (under four months removed from winning the conference title for the steeplechase) and junior Alex Merder (Cal Poly's 2018 Big West Scholar-Athlete of the Year) are also looking to build upon their 13th- and 15th-place championship seasons. Evan Jameson, now a junior, also is back following a 25th-place Big West finals showing in 2017.

The 2016 Big West Freshman of the Year, Justin Robison, also returns to the course as a redshirt sophomore. Additionally, senior Logan Marshall, along with underclassmen Luis Armendariz, Cameron Botten, Ethan Duffy, Benjamin Holland and Jake Ritter, are also entered to represent the Mustangs in Orange County on Saturday.

"Everybody has been doing a great job training," Conover said. "We're excited to see the season evolve."

A talented recruiting class of 10 true freshmen also joins the men's squad, ranked No. 10 in the USTFCCCA West Region Preseason Poll.

The women's squad just missed out on a three-peat of its own last fall, as UC Santa Barbara reclaimed the Big West title in 2017 by edging the Mustangs in the narrowest of margins ever seen at the meet: 45-47.

Miranda Daschian is back for her junior season after taking second place in the conference individually a year ago, while Sierra Brill, the championships' sixth-place finisher, also returns after winning the Big West Freshman of the Year Award in 2017.

Cal Poly, coached by Priscilla Bayley, also will have Maddie McDonald and Hannah Hull (13th and 25th, respectively, at the 2017 championships) among the squad's senior leaders, while sophomores Angela DiPentino, Abbey Fisk and Annie Meeder placed in the top 21 at the Big West finals as true freshmen.

Several teammates currently in training will also return to competition as the season progresses. Peyton Bilo, a back-to-back NCAA qualifier as a freshman and sophomore (earning All-American honors the latter year, via a 23rd-place performance at the National Championships following her Big West title), as well as teammate Katie Izzo, another key leader for the conference champion teams of 2015 and 2016, are back for the Mustangs as juniors after redshirting 2017-18.

Rachel Bordes, Delaney Fitzsimmons, Ashley Heys, Melodie Leroudier, Lexi Watkins (one of eight true freshmen among the 2018 recruiting class) and Chase Worthen are also entered at the season-opening meet, which will feature dozens of collegiate programs around the west.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing all of the hard work that these athletes have put in come to fruition," Bayley said.

This is the first time since the fall of 2003 the Mustangs have opened the season at a venue other than UCSB (as 15 years ago the program ushered in the year at Santa Clara). This season's annual Lagoon Open in Isla Vista, ordinarily the first meet, is pushed back to Sept. 15.

Two weeks after facing the Gauchos at the Blue-Green dual, the Mustangs will compete at the Stanford Invitational on Sept. 29, before the program heads to the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals on Oct. 13. The 2018 NCAA West Regionals return to Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento on Nov. 9 (the only Friday on a schedule otherwise comprised of Saturdays), leading up to the National Championships — back in Madison, Wis. (site of Pre-Nats just five weeks prior) — on Nov. 17.

Covert Classic awards will be presented to Top-10 individual finishers along with the victorious teams. Spectator parking at Carbon Canyon Park is $5.