Despite rain and muddy terrain, the USC women’s cross-country team was off and running Saturday with a seventh-place finish at the UC Irvine Invitational. The five-kilometer race was the first official collegiate meet for eight of USC’s 10 runners.
Junior Shelby Buckley, expected to be one of USC’s top runners this season, finished first among the Women of Troy and 19th overall with a time of 18:17.4. After transferring from UCLA in 2009 and sitting out with an injury last season, Buckley saw the race as a learning experience for future races.
“I would say it was a good starting point for myself,” Buckley said. “I’m happy that I was able to gauge where I am in my training and now I can improve upon that in both practice and races.”
USC coach Tom Walsh was proud of the effort he saw from the team, most of which was racing for the first time in college.
“It was pretty good first race of the season for the USC cross-country team,” Walsh said. “The freshmen were a little nervous, but they got that first race as a Trojan under their belt. I was pleased with how the girls finished the race.”
By selecting an invitational meet in which USC was the only Pac-12 team as the first of the season, Walsh allowed the team’s five newest members to compete. His hopes for the team’s five freshmen were realized, with Erin Robinson finishing in 18:54.3 for 40th place. Shannon Byrne posted a personal record of 18:55.2 to take 43rd, with fellow freshman Kira Soderstrom finishing in 57th. The freshman group was rounded out with Erin Matranga and Austin Lundin finishing in 69th and 78th, respectively.
“The first race in your collegiate career is always nerve-racking, so I think they are relieved that they got that race under their belts,” Buckley said.
USC was missing one of its anticipated stars, freshman Erica Capellino, who will run her first race for the Women of Troy next weekend at the San Diego State Aztec Invitational. Despite her absence, Walsh was pleased with his team’s performance, although he noted there are areas to grow.
“Every one of our runners had a strong kick at the end of the race,” Walsh said. “But we need some improvement on our middle-of-the-race tactics. We were not aggressive enough in the middle.”
The team finished seventh behind Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Azusa Pacific, Long Beach State, Cal State San Marcos, Claremont McKenna and UC San Diego, in a field of sixteen teams.
“I would say this meet was a good starting point, especially for our freshmen,” Buckley said.