Once a year, Santa Clarita’s Central Park is transformed into a sprawling cross-country course. Over 1,000 athletes from 30 colleges across the country and about a dozen high schools gather to race in the XC International organized by TMU head coach Zach Schroeder.
The college men’s 8k race began at 7:45 on the morning of the Sep. 29. The college women’s 5k race began shortly after the men’s race at 8:30 a.m.
Before starting the race, hundreds of runners stretched and warmed up for the race. Once they lined up, there was a palpable electricity in the air. A blank was fired and hundreds of runners set off for one of the biggest cross-country events of the season. Over twenty minutes later, the first runners to finish the race collapsed exhausted on the grass, grasping for breath in a pool of sweat.
Biola University placed first for the men’s collegiate 8k race. The Master’s University cross-country team placed seventh.
“There’s definitely a lot of progression that needs to happen within the next couple of weeks,” sophomore and business major Wes Methum said between breaths. “We’re still moving up. A lot of our guys aren’t totally fit right now. The next couple of weeks, we’ll be doing a lot of hard training because we don’t have another race for three weeks or so.”
The men’s team ran an almost identical team time on the course as they did one year ago in the same event.
“We have a chance to retool between here and our conference championships in a month, and I think our men’s team definitely has more in the tank compared to what we just did,” Schroeder said loudly over the steady stream of names and times coming from the speakers. “Effort-wise, how we’re running is very similar to the team that we had last year. There’s nothing going on in the team where it’s like this is athletically much better or much worse, so it’s a very similar team as far as where we are. But if the guys rally, then they can move forward.”
For the collegiate women’s 5k, UCLA placed in first, outpacing the second place Embry-Riddle Arizona and the third place Biola. The Master’s University women’s cross-country team came in 14th behind CSU.
“On the women’s side, Mikala Fairchild looked amazing,” Schroeder said. “Fairchild came in third overall for the women’s collegiate opening. “With our women’s team, we’ve had a lot of turnover, so it’s going to be about rebuilding.”
For many Master’s students, the event was a rare opportunity to watch their cross-country teams compete due to its close proximity to the school.
“The cross-country event this weekend was a lot of fun,” said sophomore communications major Rebekah Throns, a shooting guard for the TMU woman’s basketball team. “It was great to be able to go out and support all our runners, who have so much of my respect for the amount of hard work they put in.”
The next meet for TMU’s cross-country teams is the Warrior Invitational on Oct. 20 at William Jessup University six hours north in Rocklin.