Unlike many other college sports, cross country is an individual endeavor. Each runner’s independent performance has a massive influence over the team’s overall standing. It’s a lot of pressure, but USF’s teams have been pulling their weight individually and — consequently — as a collective.
On Sept. 23 both the USF men’s and women’s cross country teams flew out to the Midwest to compete in the Roy Griak Invitational. This particular invitational is one of the largest cross country events in the country, taking place at the University of Minnesota. It draws over 4,000 college and high school athletes annually, and the grand event is both highly populated and highly competitive. The USF cross country teams flew out to compete and vied to make the “cross-country” trip (a trip of exactly 2000 miles) worth it, and they did not come back to the Bay empty-handed.
If there’s one thing that the Roy Griak Invitational made abundantly clear, it’s that in the case of the USF women’s cross country team, the dated phrase “ladies first” most definitely applies. They’ve recently been on a tear, speeding ahead of their competitors and steadily trotting up in national rankings.
The women’s 6k was a shining star for the green and gold, to say the least. In an almost-unbelievable chain of events – particularly due to the sheer number of competitors present – the first four women to soar over the finish line were – in order of the moment their toes touched the other side of the line – were USF’s own Weronica Pysik (21:10), Charlotte Taylor (21:12), Isabelle Brauer (21:29) and Marie Bouchard (21:31).
Pysik, in particular, has come in first place during both races she has competed in thus far, and Taylor is not far behind in terms of speed and stamina. We should keep an eye on these two frontrunners moving forward, as they are two critical components of the already-brilliant women’s team as a whole.
In terms of national rank, the team moved up four spots after their success at Roy Griak. They began the year impressively, landing themselves at a hefty #10. That standing in and of itself is impressive, but the women’s team clearly wasn’t planning on stopping there. As of Sept. 29, USF’s women’s cross country team is ranked 6th in the nation – the highest of any Division I women’s team in cross country at the moment. Right now, the team stands unbeaten at their official meets.
While the USF men’s cross country team has not received the national recognition of their female counterpart, their own successes are still notable in their own right. At the Roy Griak Invitational, Mohamed Aziz and Ben Alcock came in 7th place and 9th place, respectively. With respective times of 25:17 and 25:22, their speed helped land the team in 5th place overall.
The weekend following the Roy Griak Invitational, two members of the women’s team went on to compete at the Capital Cross Challenge in Sacramento on Sept. 30. In the College Women 6k , Ellie Wallace finished in 30th place with a time of 21:51:2. Fellow Don and teammate Victoria Almanza crossed the finish line less than two minutes after Wallace, landing herself in 114th place out of over 220 competitors.
The next official meet is on Oct. 13, and we can look forward to watching the women’s team push to maintain their position in the rankings and perhaps climb in ranks to one of the Top 5 teams in the nation. With enough time to rest and ready themselves before hitting the track again, hopes are high that both USF cross country teams are in it for the long haul.
Featured Photo: Dons start out leading the pack during the Griak Invitational. Donsathletics/Flickr.