Santa Clara cross country returns home Sat., Oct. 19 to host its own meet, the Bronco Invitational, at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale, Calif. It is the 8th annual running of the meet at Baylands which was previously run at Crystal Springs. The meet will be represented by teams from three different NCAA Division 1 regions with teams from Division 2, Division 3, NAIA, junior colleges, as well as two schools from Canada.
There will be an Alumni/Community Fun Run at 8 am. The Men's 8K Invitational will begin at 9 am and the Women's 6K Invitational will follow at 9:45 am. The Men's 8K Open will start at 10:30 am with the Women's 6K Open following at 11:15 am. Click here to see Bronco Invitational Results
"The Bronco Invite has become an annual gathering of alumni, friends and family of the program and I am really looking forward to seeing some familiar faces on Saturday," said Bronco head coach Felipe Montoro. "We have the largest and most competitive fields ever this year, and I am particularly excited to have my former coach Pete Dolan and the Gauchos of UCSB competing this year."
The University of Richmond (Virginia) and the University of Hawaii will log the most miles to get to the Bay Area. Richmond (2,418) will log just two miles more than Hawaii (2,416) during its flight. This year the Bronco Invitational will feature host-Santa Clara and six other West Coast Conference teams including LMU, Pepperdine, USD, SMC, and USF. This year's race will include a 6K for the women for the first time and the men will run an 8K as usual.
"Most of the championship races are 6K so we felt it was important to make both of our women's races 6K this year as well," said Montoro.
The Bronco teams always look forward to this meet on their schedule each year and Bronco assistant Peter Cushman, also the meet director, took a stab earlier this week at why it's such a fun meet to run in and also watch.
"This meet is a lot of fun for our team for a variety of reasons," said Cushman. "It's our only home meet, so it's a rare opportunity to have friends and alums at the meet supporting the team. We also train at Baylands often, so it's a course we are familiar with. There's comfort in familiarity. It's great to step on the line and know the ins and outs as well as we do. It's also the one consistent measuring stick we have, at least time wise, from year to year. While gauging our fitness from a team place and individual stand point is useful, the competition can vary from year to year and meet to meet. So two weeks prior to conference, we have a consistent barometer to measure our team each year, and it's something the team gets up for."
Both fields are expected to be very competitive on the men's side. Top 25 teams Colorado and Stanford are both sending teams. There will also be six of the top 15 West Region teams running the two men's races.
"This meet is going to be a great preview battle between three athletes who all have a very good shot of winning our conference championship individual title. Weston Strum (LMU), Rajpaul Pannu (SMC), and Eric Causey (USF) are all having fantastic falls, and each have been in the hunt to win every race they've run," said Cushman.
Cushman added it was the first time they will all three face each other this year and any one of the three could be picked to win the WCC in a couple weeks down in Malibu.
"It's going to be great to have all these schools from outside our region and division," said Cushman.
Outside the West Region, Richmond is ranked in their region, and the Bronco will feature a few Mountain Region schools in the top 15 of that always-competitive region. The University of Victoria won an invite or two this year, and American River has a very good program too. "It's as good of a field we've had for this meet, and we are thrilled to have all these great teams here," said Cushman.
The Bronco coaches have been really pleased with how the men have been training in the last few weeks, adding Ben Demaree has continued to make progress and is ready to move up in the race standings after his Stanford performance. "Adrian Hinojosa has looked great the last few weeks, and he's as dialed in as he's been as a Bronco," said Cushman. "We are looking forward to seeing that hard work translate into racing. Adrian's never been under 26 minutes for 8k, but we think he has the potential to jump the 25's altogether. Freshman Joey Berriatua has shown to be fearless, which we love seeing. We expect a very gutsy performance from him."
On the women's side, four teams (Colorado, Stanford, Davis, USF) in the top 31 will be sending some of their runners to the meet and and five of the top 15 West region women's teams will be represented. Grace Graham-Zumudio (LMU) won the WCC Preview meet this year, and she will be the one of the favorites this weekend. She was the WCC Runner of the Month in September.
"Mary Kriege (SCU) will be one of maybe three or four runners in the field who posted top 25 finishes at the Stanford Invitational earlier this year who should be at the front of this race, in addition to a few athletes from outside the region," said Cushman. "Lauren Germany (SCU) is ready to run step for step with her up front too."
In addition to the West region women's teams - there are four Mountain region top 15 teams represented, and Richmond is ranked 11th in their region. British Columbia always has some solid front-runners and they ran very well at the Willamette Invite last week so the Bronco coaches believe they'll be in the mix up front.
"It's a very deep and competitive field, and it's exciting for our team, and it's great for the event itself," added Cushman.
Both L. Germany and Kriege have both set high goals and expectations for this meet and the rest of the season, and this is going to be a nice pre-conference effort for both of them. Kelly Ryan, Audrey Hiatt, and Emily Robinson continue to make great training partners, and collectively the coaches believe they are going to push each other to their best performances of their careers. Elisa Valenzuela is coming off the best race of her collegiate career, and Cushman sees her making another step this weekend. "They're ready to do it, and we think it's going to happen as a group effort," said Cushman. "Like Mary and Lauren have been all fall, the last few weeks these three have been inseparable, and we think that's going to be the key to our success."
With most of the Broncos running just one race since the WCC Preview (Sept. 14), the Stanford Invitational (Sept. 28), the Bronco teams have strung together some really solid training weeks. The middle of September to the middle of October is generally the time of the cross country season where the volume and intensity are collectively at a season-high. "We had a few hiccups, with some of the standard illness issues, but in general, we made some progress over the last month, and everyone is really itching to race again," said Cushman.