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Daschian, Ritter Lead Cal Poly to Season-Opening Team Wins

Daschian, Ritter Lead Cal Poly to Season-Opening Team Wins

Mustang Cross Country Wins 8k & 5k Races at Covert Classic

BREA, Calif. — Cal Poly swept the men's and women's team wins at the 34th annual Mark Covert Classic on Saturday morning, opening up the 2018 cross country season with a pair of victories at Carbon Canyon Regional Park.

Beginning a slightly warm, mid-to-high 70s Orange County day with the men's 8k, the Mustangs won with 60 points, ahead of conference rivals UC Santa Barbara (73) and meet hosts Cal State Fullerton (79) atop 12 squads in the Division I scoring section.

Carbon Canyon will also serve as the host site for the Big West Championships almost two months down the line, as the conference finals will be contested back at CSF's home course on Oct. 27.

"The focus was to run as a group, and we had a good, tight large pack of people and we're off to a good start — where you'd like to be at the start of a season," said Mark Conover, Mustang director of track & field and cross country. "The whole team has put in some good training, and we'll look to keep progressing."

Jake Ritter started his sophomore season leading Cal Poly with a performance of 24 minutes, 51.4 seconds, taking fourth place individually.

"Obviously he looked really strong," Conover commented regarding Ritter. "Having his freshman year under his belt he's got more experience, really knows more how to train and how races go, and today showed that."

Two more second-year Mustangs followed Ritter, as redshirt freshmen Benjamin Holland (25:06.4) and Ethan Duffy (25:11.7) came in 10th and 11th. Cal Poly seniors Mikey Giguere and Logan Marshall followed closely in 17th & 18th place, respectively, at 25:15.9 and 25:17.1. 

UCSB sophomore Nick Randazzo took the individual crown at 24:41.0, beating out a Titan duo of Sam Pimentel (24:48.4) & Jacob Smith (24:48.6). Completing the Cal Poly scoring were senior Sean McDermott, in 20th place at 25:21.0, along with junior Evan Jameson in 22nd via 25:26.6.

Mustang senior Peter Cotsirilos added a time of 25:29.0 (25th) next to junior Alex Merder in 25:32.9 (26th). Also representing Cal Poly were sophomore Justin Robison (34th place at 25:43.4) and redshirt freshmen Cameron Botten (36th; 25:46.9) and Luis Armendariz (63rd; 26:11.9). Meanwhile a trio of Cal Poly true freshmen also competed on an unattached (non-scored) basis, as Xian Shively was 38th overall in the field, at 25:54.1, trailed by John Bennett in 58th (26:08.3) and Anthony Benitez 76th (26:28.7).

Cal Baptist, a new member of the WAC, challenged the Mustangs for the women's 5k win, leading going into the final mile, but Cal Poly surged late to move in front by a point — 56 to 57 — as both edged Arizona State (68) atop the dozen teams in the classification.

Cal Poly's Miranda Daschian moved up methodically to win the individual title, traversing the course in 17:45.7 to beat out ASU's Daan Haven (17:47.1) and CBU's Anna Mate (17:52.5).

Two more Mustangs also posted top-10 performances to earn awards at the meet, as sophomore Abbey Fisk earned ninth place in 18:01.5, while senior Maddie McDonald — a graduate of Rosary High in nearby Fullerton — came in 10th at 18:03.1 on the O.C. course.

"We went into it quite conservatively, and the plan was to not race too aggressively," Mustang women's head coach Priscilla Bayley said, "but the team closed really well to come out with the win in the end."

"Every single person competed well going into the final stretch and passed who they needed to pass, and that's how they got the win," Bayley added. "I was really proud."

The reigning Big West Freshman of the Year, Sierra Brill, was next for the Mustangs with a pace of 18:16.8 (good for 17th), while fellow sophomore Annie Meeder clocked a 19th-place showing of 18:23.6.

Redshirt junior Katie Izzo, a key contributor for Cal Poly's back-to-back conference champion squads of 2015 & 2016, as well as an NCAA Championship First Round qualifier in track & field season, made her return to competition for the Mustangs, recording an effort of 18:32.6 to tally 28th place.

Sophomore Melodie Leroudier rounded out Cal Poly's scoring card by running an 18:45.5 (38th).

Lexi Watkins, a true freshman, posted a time of 18:47.9 in her first collegiate appearance. The La Jolla Country Day High signee came in 44th in her debut. Rachel Bordes added a 56th-place time of 19:00.4 for Cal Poly, while Delaney Fitzsimmons took 68th (19:14.6). They were followed by teammates Angela DiPentino (19:25.1 for 76th overall), Ashley Heys (19:46.0; 89th) and Chase Worthen (20:01.7; 100th).

Cal Poly will train for two weeks leading up to the next early-season meet, UCSB's annual Lagoon Open. The Blue-Green Rivalry dual is scheduled for an 11 a.m. start Sept. 15 in Isla Vista.