Sheila Sobchik

The Cal Poly men’s cross country team is optimistic that the 2005 season will be a success.

Last year’s team won its second consecutive Big West Championship, placed 3rd at the NCAA West Regional and finished 10th at the NCAA Nationals.

The 10th-place finish in Terry Haute, Ind. was an improvement of three spots from the previous year and the best finish in school history at the Division I level.

Coach Mark Conover said that this year’s team is improved and has the opportunity to perform as well or better than last year.

“We should be able to go back there (Nationals) and do the same thing or possibly place even higher,” he said.

The Mustangs started this year ranked eighth nationally in the Preseason Mondo Cross Country Poll and third in the Western Region.

Conover said that the addition of two redshirt freshmen, Troy Swier and Alex Dunn, should benefit the team, as both athletes have improved greatly after a year of training at Cal Poly.

Conover added that junior transfer Brian Baker brings a great work ethic into the program and is an excellent runner.

Baker finished 5th at the NAIA Nationals running for Biola University.

“The addition of new athletes in the lineup with some of our veterans from last year make the outlook for the team very exciting,” Conover said.

In the Mustangs first major race last weekend in Falcon Heights, Minn., the team placed fourth behind BYU, Wisconsin, and Iowa, respectively.

Swier placed 13th in the race and was the highest placing Mustang. Baker and Dunn followed Swier with finishes of 33rd and 34th, respectively.

“The course was difficult and the race was painful, but everything was working for me and it resulted in a good finish,” Swier said. He added that the team atmosphere at Cal Poly is great and inspiring, something he did not experience in high school.

“There are definitely high caliber runners on this team that help me to be a better runner,” he said.

The men’s team continues its mission to the top Saturday at the UC Riverside Invitational

“Our pack will only continue to get in better shape and be more fit for the end of the season,” Conover said.

Women’s team

The Cal Poly women’s cross country team is looking forward to the 2005 season in hopes of improving its results from last year.

The women’s team is coming off a season in which they finished 4th in the Big West Championship and 9th at the NCAA Western Regional.

“The women’s team has some work to do in order to reach some of our goals,” coach Mark Conover said. “We are proceeding towards the conference meet and our goal of reaching a peak at that time.”

Conover added that the addition of freshman Stephanie Hamilton should help, as she looks strong in workouts.

Over the past weekend, the team finished 15th at the Stanford Invitational with top Mustang runner Rachel Valliere taking 40th place.

Sophomore Stacey Tabuena and redshirt freshman Lauren Mulkey followed Valliere by finishing in 79th and 93rd, respectively.

“We’re a young team with plenty of young talent,” Mulkey said. “We may have some work to do, but we’re committed to achieving our goals.”

The women’s team may be off to a slow start, but the team return to action on Saturday at the UC Riverside Invitational.

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