Sheila Sobchik

After a disappointing ninth-place finish at the NCAA West Regional Meet on Nov. 11, the Cal Poly men’s cross country team finished 13th in the nation Monday at the NCAA Championships hosted by Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind.

“It says a lot about the team and how badly they wanted to rebound and prove to the whole country what they wanted to do and put together this race,” Cal Poly head coach Mark Conover said in a phone interview. “It’s a real testament to what Cal Poly cross country is all about.”

Cal Poly junior Phillip Reid secured All-American status with a 21st-place individual finish in 31 minutes, 24.2 seconds on the 10,000-meter course. Reid became the first male Mustang runner to take All-American honors since the school moved to the Division I level in 1994.

“It was kind of one of my goals at the beginning of the season to get All-American (status) and help the team finish as high as they could,” Reid said in a phone interview. “We had a really good race plan.”

Reid said his strategy was to start conservative for the first five kilometers.

“I was probably in 50th or 60th,” Reid said. “I kind of in my head broke it up into three stages. For the first 5K it was just to remain relaxed, stay with the pack, just kind of hang out for a while. The whole time it was just to pass people and prevent yourself from getting passed.”

Conover agreed.

“I think that the team just basically followed a solid race plan with Phillip’s big, strong front-running,” Conover said. “The next four were able to pack it in well enough and that led to the 13th-place finish.”

In team scoring, Reid was followed by freshman Joe Gatel (32:50) in 94th, senior Luke Llamas (32:52) in 96th, senior Jameson Mora (33:03) in 113th and sophomore Troy Swier (33:11) in 127th. Other Cal Poly runners who did not score were freshman Evan Anderson (33:42) in 160th and sophomore Jeff Lease (35:41) in 209th.

“Our pack from 2-4 was about 80 seconds apart or something like that,” Reid said. “From a team standpoint, we ran a really solid race. Joe Gatel ran really well like he has for the past few races.”

Conover agreed.

“Joe’s a redshirt freshman, that’s a huge race for him,” Conover said. “Luke is going out as a fifth-year senior. Jameson and Troy held together and held their spots reasonably well.”

Conover was pleased to see Reid fulfill his potential on the biggest stage yet.

“I think it’s fantastic when a runner has a nice breakthrough,” Conover said. “Certainly we’ve seen his training improve. His belief in himself, his confidence. He had a perfect race plan. He passed 35 or 40 people and had a phenomenal run.”

Reid was glad Cal Poly was able to improve upon its ranking of No. 19 in the Oct. 31 Division I coaches poll.

“Coach told us to run with commitment and that’s what we did,” Reid said. “We put in the hard work and it showed today. We placed six places higher than our highest team ranking.”

For his part, Reid plans to enjoy some time off during Thanksgiving break. He will focus on his senior season later.

“I’m probably going to take some time off,” Reid said. “Kind of enjoy it for a while, take it in and rest up and get ready for track. It’s kind of been the theme to run every race every season like it could be your last because it very well could be.”

With 94 points, Colorado won in team standings. The Mustangs scored 441 points.

The individual race was won by BYU senior Josh Rohatinsky in 30:44.9.

Cal Poly was 13th in 2003 and 10th in 2004. It was the Mustangs’ fourth trip to the NCAA Championship as a team, although they have been represented by at least one individual eight times.

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