If the USC women’s cross country team was looking for a burst of momentum heading into the last month of the season, it found it Saturday at the Vanguard Invitational in Costa Mesa, Calif.
The Women of Troy had by far their best race as a team thus far this season, winning the meet with a season-best 47 points, 27 better than second-place Orange Coast College. Rounding out the top-10 team finishers were Concordia, Point Loma, host Vanguard, Cal State Los Angeles, Westmont, Cal State Fullerton, Loyola Marymount and the Master’s College.
The win was the first for the Women of Troy this season.
With the looming Pac-10 Championships and with a disappointing finish at the Stanford Invitational still in their minds, USC desperately needed a breakout team performance. The Women of Troy did not disappoint. USC’s five scoring runners finished with an average 5K time of 18:23.80, and the top seven runners all finished in the top-20 overall.
Junior Zsofia Erdelyi led the way for USC, placing fourth overall with a time of 18:05. Junior Christine Cortez finished eigth overall, followed by senior Katherine Ellis (ninth overall), senior captain Bridget Helgerson (14th) and junior Zara Lukens (17th). Freshman Kelly Owen (19th overall) and sophomore Leah Gaeta (20th) rounded out the top-7 for USC.
Erdelyi’s performance was especially impressive. The junior had battled injuries and the flu before and during the season before Saturday’s strong fourth place finish.
Helgerson, too, experienced a slow start to the season due to injuries and slightly sub-par performances. The team captain came back in a big way Saturday, finishing with a time of 18:33, averaging just less than six minutes per mile.
Next up for the Women of Troy is the 6K Cal State Northridge Invitational on Oct. 16. The Women of Troy will look to build on Saturday’s strong performance and begin the drive towards the team’s ultimate goal: the Pac-10 Championships in Long Beach on Oct. 30.