Aug. 8, 2006
BERKELEY, Calif. - The seeds for success have been planted, and now the California cross country programs are ready to make the jump into national prominence in 2006.
Head coach Tony Sandoval wants the men's and women's teams to excel in the postseason. He wants the Bears to not only do well at the Pac-10 Championships, but also take their performances to the next level at the NCAA West Regional and at the NCAA Championships.
Fresh off last season's third-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships - the best in school history - the Cal men's team is hoping to springboard off that success and make an even bigger impact in 2006.
"If we could make it as a team in our region (to the NCAA Championships), which is probably the deepest and most competitive distance region in the country, then I think it says something," said Sandoval said Sandoval, who begins his 15th season at the helm of the men's team and 25th in charge of the women's program. "If you can make it, even if you're the third, fourth or fifth team, you can still be in the top 20. Anytime you can have a team in the top 20, I think that is a feather in the cap."
The team will be led by last year's Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year, freshman Mark Matusak (Torrance, Calif.), as well as sophomore Jake Schmitt (Kentfield, Calif.), and junior David Torrence (Reseda, Calif.).
Matusak will be looking for repeat success this year. Two of his best finishes of 2005 came at the biggest meets of the season. At the Pac-10 Championships, Matusak finished second among the Bears, taking 17th overall (24:26) and first among conference rookies. At the Stanford Invitational, he led Cal with a time of 24:24 and took 17th.
Schmitt also ran a strong race at the Stanford Invitational, crossing the finish line in 25:03. Schmitt came in 70th (32:01) at the NCAA West Regional.
Torrence returns to the team after competing as a freshman in 2003. That year, Torrence placed 19th at the Stanford Invitational (12:30) and took 44th at the Pac-10 Championships (26:28).
Two other runners who will play vital roles are sophomore Yosef Ghebray (Union City, Calif.) and junior Chris Chavez (Culver City, Calif.). Both Ghebray and Chavez clocked in with good times at the Stanford Invitational, finishing in 24:34 and 25:15, respectively. At the Pac-10 Championships, Ghebray crossed in 20th with a time of 25:01.
Cal's top newcomer in 2006 is Michael Coe (Lompoc, Calif.). Coe was a runner-up at the Footlocker National Championships and finished second at the California state meet. Sandoval said Coe may be one of the top five Bears immediately. Coe is joined by a two-time junior college state champion in the 800m, Francis Gadayan (San Francisco, Calif.) and Schmitt's former high school teammatem Steve Sodaro (Tiburon, Calif.).
Redshirt freshman Dawit Tesfasilassie (Santa Rosa, Calif.) should be an important contributor this year.
The rest of the Bears who will be competing for spots in the top seven are sophomores Sean Carey (Albany, Calif.), Eric Lee (San Anselmo, Calif.), Matt Miller (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), junior Andres Perezchica (Cathedral City, Calif.) and senior Micah Parker (Reno, Nev.).
The goal for the 2006 women's team is also to reach a new plateau and elevate the program to the next level. Following an 11th-place finish at the 2005 NCAA West Regional, Cal is looking to get into the top 10 this year.
The senior leadership will come from three-year letterwinner, Bridget Duffy (Oakland, Calif.). Duffy, a 2003 All-American, finished in 34th at the Pac-10 Championships and the NCAA West Regional last fall.
Junior Rebecca Yau (Orinda, Calif.) turned in an impressive 2006 campaign, grabbing 27th place (22:04) to lead the Bears at the Pac-10 Championships. She also clocked in at 22:55 (46th) at the Stanford Invitational and 21:59 (46th) at the Chile Pepper Festival. Yau's success in the fall carried over into the spring track and field schedule. She set an indoor school record at the MSPF Championships in the 5000m (16:52). In the same event, she set a new personal best in the 3000m (9:39).
"The key (for the women's team) is going to be how the development of our freshmen and our redshirts occur," Sandoval said. "We have the beginning parts to that. We're going to have two very good runners that will probably finish in the top 20 in most meets, and that's Rebecca (Yau) and Bridget (Duffy)."
Sophomore Alysia Johnson (Canyon Country, Calif.) is hoping her successful 2006 track season will carry over into the fall. At the Chile Pepper Festival, Johnson toured the course at 22:08 to take 46th. In track and field, she set an indoor school record at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championships, clocking in at 2:05.49 in the 800m. She earned All-America honors for her sixth-place finish in the 800m at the 2006 NCAA championships, and finished second in the USATF Championships with a time of 2:01.80.
Cal's other senior, Elizabeth Mayeda (Aptos, Calif.), she took 48th at the 2005 Pac-10 Championships with a time of 22:51.
Adding depth to the roster will be sophomore Mackenzie Pierce (Pfafftown, N.C.) and junior Amanda Thornberry (San Jose Calif.). Also in the mix are two returning redshirts from 2005, Pippa McDonald (Kailua, HI.) and Gabriella Rios-Sotello (Berkeley, Calif.).
The incoming freshmen who the Bears expect to make a huge impact are Alison Greggor (Novato, Calif.), Rowena Tam (San Diego, Calif.) and Rebecca Palm (Campbell, Calif.). Greggor holds her high school record for the 800m (2:21), 1600m (5:00.5) and the 3200m (11:17).