By JOEL TIMBRELL
Seven Bulldog runners took the eight hour car ride to Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, California last Thursday, Oct. 20, for the 69th annual world-famous Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational.
Like the Artichoke Invitational at Half Moon Bay High School, Mt. SAC is a longtime Alhambra running tradition. The team stopped by Kettleman City on Thursday, then spent the night at a hotel. On Friday morning, they left for the races at Mt. SAC.
As one of the most popular meets in the nation, participation levels demand two separate days for the runners (Friday and Saturday). Friday alone saw 50 total races, averaging 100 people in each.
With so many runners, the races were also broken down into sections. Categories included races for junior varsity, freshman, sophomore, varsity, and sweepstakes races for male and female runners, and athletes finishing among the top 15 overall won a medal.
All 3-mile races start from a formerly used airstrip, make two laps around the “Dam Loop” and then head uphill into the switchbacks. Runners continue to the opposite side of the airstrip and charge up “Poopout Hill” and run another quarter mile to make a 180-degree turn to “Reservoir Hill”. If runners survive those three grueling hills, they go back to the airstrip the opposite way and finish in the chute next to the stadium further down.
The 2-mile races exclude Poopout and Reservoir Hills from the course, but are otherwise identical.
In order to keep the meet moving forward, a new race started approximately every 10 minutes. At any given time there were three races happening at once, all on the same cross country course.
Freshman Carson Edwards was the first Bulldog to test the course in race number 22, a 2-mile competition. He started out near the front group of athletes and made the two circles around the Dam Loop, hitting a 5:39 first mile before ascending the switchbacks out of sight. Then he returned onto the airstrip speeding up towards the finish line in the distance.
In the final 100 meters, Edwards fought off San Joaquin’s Matt Garza for the 15th place overall, nabbing the final medal and clocking 11 minutes, 18 seconds.
Sophomore Nicole Tria was the other Bulldog to earn some more hardware at Mt. SAC. In the girls 2-mile race immediately after, Tria ran a personal record of 12 minutes and 30 seconds to comfortably secure a medal in eighth place. Maddie Brough of Junipero Serra was the winner here in 11:38.
The races thereafter were a bit of a disappointment, as three more inspiring performances left three of the Dogs just outside the medal stand.
Graham Manning was just seconds away from capturing a third medal in the sophomore race number 25, but the tough competition proved unstoppable as he crossed the line in 18th with a PR of 11:23.
Despite cutting nearly two minutes from her 2015 time of 23:39, Erica Cardinale’s 2016 finish of 21:49 in the varsity girls 3-mile earned her 17th overall. Connor Hayes just missed out as well in the varsity boys race with another 17th place finish and time of 18:10.
The season is not over, so the Bulldogs will be looking for some redemption in the upcoming DAL Championships, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Martinez’s Hidden Valley Park.