The Cal Poly cross country teams outran the rest of the field last Saturday at the Big West Conference Championships at the Kahuku Golf Course in Kahuku, Hawaii. The Mustangs secured both the men’s and women’s team and individual championships with senior Clayton Hutchins and sophomore Peyton Bilo winning the men’s and women’s races respectively.
The windy meet began with the men’s 8k where four of the first five runners across the finish line were Mustangs. Hutchins took home the blue ribbon, but had to come from far behind to do so. After the first split Hutchins was in fifth place, but he worked his way to the front of the pack before the second split. From there, Hutchins never looked back as he expanded his lead all the way to the finish line with a total time of 24:36.1.
Hutchins was closely followed by senior Swarnjit Boyal, who finished in second place with an overall time of 24:46.0 and redshirt junior Alex Heuchert, who finished third in 24:50.1.
Boyal was able to maintain his second place position from the first split all the way to the finish line, while Heuchert had to climb from eighth place after the first split to third place by the end of the race.
Freshmen Justin Robinson and Chas Cook came in next for Cal Poly after Adam Avilla of UC Santa Barbara finished fourth. Robinson climbed from ninth place after the first split to finish fifth with an overall time of 25:07.0. Cook was consistent through the duration of the race, as he was either in sixth or seventh place at each split. He finished seventh with an overall time of 25:22.7.
Following the freshmen, two sophomores were left in the rest of the field for the Mustangs. Peter Cotsirilos finished ninth with an overall time of 25:27.3, while David Galvez finished 11th in 25:33.1.
The Mustangs finished with an almost flawless score of 18 points, the fourth-best in the tournament’s 48-year history and the best score since Cal Poly tallied 15 in 2007. Second place UC Santa Barbara finished with a score of 53, which gave Cal Poly a 35-point margin of victory, the largest since 2009 when the Mustangs defeated the Gauchos by 39 points.
The men’s Big West title is the Mustangs’ 14th under head coach Mark Conover and 26th conference title overall.
The women’s 6k ran next, and the Mustangs were just as dominant. The women’s cross country team won their second consecutive conference championship with a team score of 27.
UC Santa Barbara finished in second place with a score of 72, giving the Mustangs a 45-point margin of victory. The point differential was the largest in the Big West Championship since 2006, and Cal Poly’s best score since joining the conference in 1996.
Bilo was the first woman across the finish line with an overall time of 21:04.1 to improve on her second place finish in last year’s conference championship with a time of 20:36.87.
At the first split, Bilo trailed the leader, Hawaii’s Montana Martinez, by less than a tenth of a second. Bilo took the lead at the second split and held it to the end of the race, increasing her lead by roughly 10 seconds by each split.
Senior Ashley Windsor was the next best finisher for the Mustangs with an overall time of 21:37.4, good enough for fourth. Windsor was in 10th place after the first split, but consistently worked her way up the pack for a top-five finish. Just one second behind Windsor, Cal Poly junior Molly Haar finished fifth with an overall time of 21:38.1. Harr, like several of her teammates, ran consistently throughout the race by standing fourth or fifth at every split.
Freshman Cate Ratliff and sophomore Katie Izzo rounded out the scoring for the Mustangs, as they finished in eighth and ninth place with overall times of 21:56.4 and 22:00.9, respectively. Ratliff passed 10 competitors after the first split and came back from 18th to finish within the top 10. Izzo fought to finish in the top 10 as well after checking in 13th after the first split.
Sophomore Julia Vasquez and junior Kylie Nishisaka rounded out top-20 finishers for the Mustangs. Vasquez finished in 17th place with an overall time of 22:35.3, while Nishisaka finished in 20th place with an overall time of 22:40.3. Two additional Mustangs finished within the top 50, as sophomore Hannah Hull finished 30th with an overall time of 23:19.8 and freshman Morgan Coonfield finished 50th in 24:14.4.
The Cal Poly women have won six Big West championships since 2000 and 22 overall. Combined, the men’s and women’s cross country programs have won 48 conference championships since 1969.
The Mustangs will continue their postseason play Nov. 11 in Sacramento at the West Regional meet. Competitors who perform well at the meet could be sent to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Indianapolis on Nov. 19.