Wildcats Cross Country teams both finish 6th at NCAA's

Nov 24, 2013 12:41 AM

By Luke Reid - Sports Information Director (lreid@csuchico.edu)

SPOKANE, Wash. – Most coaches and athletes would give their left ear to produce the kind of "rough day" Gary Towne's Chico State cross country squad experienced at the NCAA Championships Saturday in Spokane, Wash.

It was not the masterpiece the Wildcats intended, though both teams finished sixth in the nation while Isaac Chavez (eight in the men's race), Johnny Sanchez (23rd) and Ayla Granados (26th in the women's race) all earned All-America honors.

"It was a rough day for us. We didn't accomplish some of the big goals we set out to," said Towne. "We set high expectations for ourselves. But those expectations shouldn't overshadow the hard work and dedication that goes into being one of the top six teams in the nation. We have a lot to be proud of."

That was not enough to console the athletes in the moments following their races. One could see the disappointment on their faces as clearly as their breath in the sub-freezing temperatures on an icy, crystal-clear morning along the northern bank of the Spokane River.

With a little time to reflect, however, Chavez could put things into perspective.

"It didn't go the way we wanted it to but we represented Chico State the best we could and we all understand that we had a historic season," said the fourth-year senior, referring to the Wildcats' first-ever sweep of the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships and first 1-2-3 sweep of the NCAA Regional Championships earlier this season. "It wasn't the end we were hoping for. But we all gave an effort we can be proud of. We can always be proud of what we accomplished this season and the part we played in helping build the foundation for future seasons of Chico State cross country."

The result gave the men's team its 15th straight top-10 NCAA Championships finish and its 10th top-six finish in the last 12 years.

The women's team tallied its 12th consecutive top-10 finish and ninth top-six finish in the last 12 years.

Chavez becomes the third four-time All-American in the history of the program and boasts four top-13 NCAA Championships finishes and four of the 13 best NCAA Championships finishes in school history.

"Isaac's accomplishments sort of speak for themselves in terms of the special ability he has," said Towne. "But the thing that has impressed me most is the way he really took a leadership role this season. He's made us all better in a number of ways. I'm really proud of him for that."

Sanchez secured his second All-America honor in three seasons while Granados garnered her first in her final race in a Chico State cross country uniform.

"I'm really happy to see Ayla go out an All-American," said Towne. "She deserved it."

Grand Valley State won the 32-team, six-kilometer women's race with 54 points. The Lakers were followed by Adams State (91), Western State (194), Alaska Anchorage (214), Augustana (236) and Chico State (242).

Granados covered the course in 21:39.9. Sara Mikesell just missed her second straight All-America honor by finishing 45th in 21:55.6. The top 40 finishers are automatic All-Americans.

Haley Kroll came in 61st overall and eighth among the freshmen in the field. Last-minute addition to the team Bailey Henshaw rewarded Towne's faith in her by finishing 81st. Rebekah Bahra was 89th, Jessica Varela 97th and Sadie Gastelum 156th in the 244-runner field.

Adams State won the 32-team men's race with 54 points, while Grand Valley State finished second (104), Augustana third (122), Western State fourth (137), Colorado Mines fifth (187) and Chico State sixth. The Wildcats finished ahead of fellow West Region teams Alaska Anchorage (256) and Cal Poly Pomona (304).

Chavez covered the 10 kilometers in 30:30.1. Sanchez crossed the line in 31:01.6. Cisneros was making his way up through the field and looked a solid bet to be an All-American before a side stitch derailed those hopes. The senior finished 45th. Another senior, Dayne Gradone, was 71st.

Freshman Aaron Mora finished 145th as the Wildcats' fifth scorer. Phil Graber grabbed 148th position and Aaron Thomas 160th out of 246.


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