Swarjnit Boyal leads the pack of the runners during the Big West Conference Championships. Big West Conference | Courtesy Photo

The Cal Poly men’s cross country team finished 11th overall at the NCAA West Region Cross Country Championships held in Seattle Friday. A strong showing by senior Swarnjit Boyal played a key role in Cal Poly’s success.

Boyal finished 10th overall with a time of 29:42.7 and was the fastest runner Cal Poly sent to the meet. Junior Mikey Giguere finished second on the team and 56th overall with a time of 30:48.1. Junior Sean McDerrmott stuck close to Giguere’s heels and finished less than three seconds later in 61st place with a time of 30:50.6 seconds.

“I thought the team competed well,” head coach Mark Conover said. “The west region is arguably the toughest region in the country … they all did what they could and went for their top efforts that they could muster up.”

The team’s 11th overall finish is not enough to send the entire team to the national finals in Kentucky next week, but Boyal’s finish will send him individually.

“It’s 255 really good runners in the race and today he showed he can run with the best of them,” Conover said.

While Boyal did manage to finish in the top 10, it was not his easiest race. Early on he tripped and fell, which sent him from near the front to a place in the middle of the pack. After finding his feet, Boyal realized he needed to use the whole race to make up ground instead of sprinting back to where he was.

“Once I got up, there was a pack that was ahead of me and I just wanted to be smart, relaxed, just slowly work my pack up to the top group,” Boyal said. “Then I just slowly kept moving up, moving up.”

The decision paid off by the end of the race and he made it back to about where he was before he fell. With time running out Boyal realized he needed to push hard to regain his position and qualify for nationals.

“With like one [kilometer] to go I was like ‘I need to move up if I want to go,’” he said. “I was able to catch some people at the end and then have a strong finish.”

For their work this season, Boyal won all-regional honors and Conover won Big West men’s coach of the year. It is Conover’s 19th time winning this award.

Although the Mustangs did not qualify for nationals as a team this year and are losing two of their top runners, Boyal and senior Clayton Hutchins, to graduation, Conover said he is happy about next year’s team.

“Looking ahead, the future’s bright,” Conover said. “[We’re] losing Swarnjit and Clayton Hutchins to graduation, they’re two solid people that have done a great job here, but we got everybody else back. Recruiting is going fantastically so we’re going to keep rolling.”

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