The men’s team came away with a fourth-place finish out of 17 teams. | Mustang News file photo

Nick Larson
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The Cal Poly cross-country team is one of the most successful — and unappreciated — programs in school history.

Both the men and women have won back-to-back Big West Conference team championships in the past two years, with the men capturing 13 of the last 16 titles.

A key factor in Cal Poly’s success has been the consistency in leadership. Head coach Mark Conover is in his 19th season with the program and was named Cal Poly’s director of track and field and cross-country in 2009.

The experience Conover brings to the program is invaluable. In 1988, he was the Olympic Trials champion in the marathon and competed in the Seoul Olympics that same year.

The Mustangs have competed in the NCAA Cross-Country Championships 14 times under Conover and seven times as a team. Conover’s success earned him the honor of Big West Conference coach of the year a combined 15 times on both the women’s and men’s side.

This year, the Mustangs have already hit the ground running. The men’s team came away with a top spot earlier this season at the West Coast Conference Preview Meet with just 29 points, 17 ahead of the second-place finisher.

Sophomore Clayton Hutchins led the way, finishing No. 1 overall, completing the 8,000-meter course in 24 minutes, 19.3 seconds.

The Mustangs dominated, taking home five of the top 12 spots.

The women’s cross-country team came away with a third-place finish out of 11 teams. The Mustangs finished with a total of 70 points, 31 away from top finishers Loyola Marymount with a total of 39 points.

Senior Meghan Breadmore was the first finisher for Cal Poly, finishing her 6,000-meter race in 21 minutes, 18.5 seconds, earning fourth place overall. Three other Mustangs finished in the top 15.

The men’s side are currently ranked No. 8 in the West Region, which includes schools for the Big West Conference, the West Coast Conference and the Pac-12.

The women’s side is positioned at No. 11 in the West Region, one spot ahead of UCLA.

Next up for the Mustangs is the Stanford Invitational on Sept. 27, followed by the Cal Poly Invitational on Oct. 18 in San Luis Obispo.

Cross-country may not get the attention or glory of other fall sports, but they are the best team at Cal Poly you’re not watching.

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