FRESNO, Calif. - The 2014 Cross Country season promises to bring new excitement and challenges to the Bulldog men's and women's teams, thanks to a healthy mix of veteran runners and promising newcomers.
Fresno State will open the season with the Fresno State Invitational, then host the Mountain West Championships on their home course in Woodward Park. The course will give the Bulldog team a chance to run a tough race on their own turf and increase the team's resolve to run its finest when the Mountain West Conference Championships are held on Friday, Oct. 31. With most of the team returning from last year, stepping up in the rankings is a priority for the Bulldog runners.
Entering his seventh season as head coach, Sean McManus looks forward to building a stronger team and improving the team's overall times. "Having already worked with most of our runners, I know we are starting out the year with experience and a solid foundation," McManus said. "I am excited to host home meets this year, and it's great that the athletes' family will have an opportunity to see them compete."
On the men's side, the Bulldogs will look for redshirt senior Olivier Bernard (Laval, Quebec), senior Chriss Grimble (Sacramento, Calif.), and sophomore Matt Kwiatkowski (San Miguel, Calif.) to step up as leaders in 2014.
Grimble, the team's top finisher in the 2013 NCAA West Regional, placed among the team's top-four finishers in six races last fall, and Kwiatkowski owned similar honors in five contests.
Bernard, who redshirted during the 2013 season, is expected to pick up right where he left off in the 2012 campaign that included career best marks in the 6K, 4-mile, and 8K. He paced the team in four of six events that season and was also an All-WAC honoree in 2010 after placing eighth in the conference finale.
The men's team also returns Uriel Cabanas (Madera, Calif.), Nathan Esparza (Madera, Calif.), Cooper Gill (Stockton, Calif.), Matt Kwiatkowski (San Miguel, Calif.) and Esteban Vega (Camarillo, Calif.).
The women's team returns four accomplished veteran runners to lead the way.
Junior Annemarie Schwanz (Neuruppin, Germany) led the squad in all five races last fall and broke the Fresno State all-time record last season on three occasions, thanks to her efforts in the NCAA Inter-Region Jamboree (5K 17:06) and Santa Clara Bronco Invitational (6K 20:38.5) and NCAA West Regional (6K, 22:08.6).
Redshirt senior Carina Mendoza (Madera, Calif.) - also one of the team's fastest on both the track and trails - ran all of her cross country bests in 2012 as a junior in the Aggie Open (4K, 15:04), Bronco Invitational (18:14) and Sundodger Invitational (6K, 22:30).
Senior Lyndsie Etherton (Fresno, Calif.) won consecutive MW Harrier of the Week honors in 2012 after she won the Saramento State Hornet Jamboree and took fourth overall in the Sundodger Invitational. The former WAC Chamionships Freshman of the Year after she paced the `Dogs in her conference meet debut, she also ran in the team's top five as a junior before being slowed by injuries.
Junior Julianne Jacques (Clovis, Calif.) ran in the team's top four in all six races last fall, including its second finisher in the Stanford Invitational and NCAA West Regional.
Freshman Mackenzie Landa (San Dimas, Calif.) is expected to round out the Bulldogs' scoring five. During her prep career, Landa set the Bonita High School record at the Mt. SAC Invitational with a time of 17:47 on their 3-mile course.
The women's team also returns Marla Acosta (Kingsburg, Calif.), Melanie Baran (Sanford, Manitoba), Kelly Duffy (Fresno, Calif.), Brittany Laygo (Clovis, Calif.), Meagan Paracholski (Winnipeg, Manitoba), and Ann Taylor (Oceanside, Calif.).
The Bulldogs cross county teams welcome a total of six newcomers - Landa and Christine Padilla on the women's side, and Joel Gonazalez, Jack Kuzminksy, Michael Marquez (San Miguel, Calif.), and Efren Reyes (Santa Rosa, Calf.) on the men's squad.
"We have a bigger group this year and I am expecting a bigger effort," said McManus. "On the men's side we seem to have a tight pack of six or seven guys, which was something that was really lacking last year. The women's team has a great group of solid runners. We are going to some quality meets this season, and I am interested in seeing how they respond to a higher level of competition."
To prepare for the championship slate, the Fresno State cross country teams will race on some of the premier courses in the country.
The Bulldogs open up the season at the Fresno State Invitational on Friday, Sept. 5. They travel back to the Sundodger Invitational hosted by the University of Washington on Saturday, Sept. 20. Then the `Dogs will travel to the highly touted Stanford Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 27, an evening meet that the `Dogs have attended three of the past four seasons.
After returning to a month of intense training, the team resumes its racing schedule at the Indiana State Pre-National Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 18, the site of the 2014 NCAA Championships. The `Dogs then begin their championship run at the Mountain West Championships, which they are hosting at Woodward Park on Friday, Oct. 31.
The postseason kicks off at Stanford with the NCAA West Regional Championship on Friday, Nov. 14, with the top teams and individuals advancing to the NCAA National Championships on Saturday, Nov. 22.
"Be Bold!" - The official home of the Fresno State Bulldogs is 940 AM ESPN Radio.
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