The women’s cross country team may be a small group, but it is close knit and off to a good start.
The team is composed of 11 runners, most of whom are freshmen and sophomores, though the team does include several juniors, seniors and even graduate students.
For head coach David Freeman, though this is one of the youngest teams he has ever coached, it doesn’t lack for skill.
“[This is] potentially the most talented [team] top to bottom,” he said.
Redshirt junior Rebekah Ent noted the camaraderie among the teammates is strong.
“[The team is] a lot closer than it has been in the past, with a solid group of girls who are all working towards the same goals,” she said.
The team has already run their first meet, the Pepperdine XC Invitational, and came away undefeated. The Trojans beat Cal State Bakersfield, Long Beach State, Pepperdine and UC Irvine for their first overall win since 2014.
Redshirt sophomore Madison Ricks led the team with a 15:14.37 first place finish and an eight-second lead over the second place finisher. In addition to Ricks, the team saw five runners finish in the top 13, including sophomore Amber Gore, who finished fourth with a time of 15:26.05. Gore is coming back from an injury last season and is considered to be one of the runners to look out for, according to Ent.
“It was a really good first race, especially coming off an injury last year and a good starting point for where I want to be this year,” Gore said.
Even with the win, Freeman is staying focused on the next meet.
“This is just a starting point,” he said. “We are just trying to get the rust out of the way and get back to training tomorrow and used the next two and a half weeks to get ready to compete at Riverside in our next meet.”
Freeman is focusing on catching up the younger runners and getting them into the Pac-12 mindset with the help of older runners such as redshirt seniors Vivian Grimes and Lorea Ibarzabal.
“They both have seen it all and have experienced the ups and downs of college, so I think they can add a lot through their experience,” Freeman said.
The veterans have already inspired the younger runners to win the Pac-12, and the team is off to a great start to making that dream come true.
Their next meet is the UC Riverside Invite this Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how I can do with larger competition, and I think that the team is stronger than it ever has been,” Gore said.