Online Exclusive: Taking the competition and continuing to improve

This past weekend was one that proved to the world what Portland State is made of.

This past weekend was one that proved to the world what Portland State is made of.

The Mike Hodges Invitational was on Oct. 15 in Oregon City and the Dellinger Invitational was on Oct. 16 in Eugene. These two competitions were the concluding races for the regular cross country season.

At Mike Hodges, on the women’s team, sophomore Brandy Castillo finished 24th in the 5-kilometer race with a time of 19:24.94. Behind her were fellow sophomore Brittany Long, who finished 39th with a time of 19:54.72, and freshman Megan Madsen, who came in 58th with a time of 20:37.33.

On the men’s team, junior Mark Bozarth-Dreher placed 45th in the 8-kilometer race with a time of 21:28.39. Not too far behind were juniors Tony Crisofulli, whose time of 21:53.15 put him in 59th, and Gilmer Gongora, who came in 64th with a time of 21:55.95.

At Dellinger there were six female Vikings and six male Vikings who ran up against some nationally ranked teams. Junior John Lawrence led the Vikings on the 8-kilometer track by placing 43rd with a time of 25:21.36. Following closely were senior Nate Endicott, who took 48th with a time of 25:37.12, freshman Zachary Carpenter, who took 49th with a time of 25:37.95 and junior Andrew Slag, who finished 51st with a time of 25:48.00. Other runners were freshmen Jose Rodriguez and Cary Dunagan, who placed 59th and 60th, respectively.

Taking the lead on the women’s team was sophomore Julie Pedersen, who came in 20th and ran the 6-kilometer race in 21:05.66—a time that put her in the top 20.  Placing 40th was sophomore Amber Rozcicha with a time of 21:59.26. Behind Rozcicha was junior Katie Blue in 44th place with a time of 22:15.33. The three other runners for the women’s team were senior Karissa Fuller (54th), sophomore Brittany Castillo (56th) and freshman Alexandra Neil (61st).

Assistant coach Cassie Stilley commented on the women’s team’s performance this weekend.

“Everyone had a season best, so that was exciting,” Stilley said. Despite going up against nationally ranked teams, “the runners performed well,” Stilley said. “They took the level of competition and tried, instead of being intimidated by it.” According to Stilley, this proves that the Viks can handle the level of competitors they will be facing in the Big Sky Conference Championship on Oct. 30 and the NCAA regionals on Nov. 13. The roster of runners participating in the next two races is still the same as this weekend’s.

The biggest test this weekend wasn’t time, “but how we do under good teams and how we deal with ourselves in that situation,” Stilley said.

Two runners that deserve recognition for their performance this weekend—and throughout the season—are juniors Katie Blue and John Lawrence. 

“[Blue] has been stepping it up consistently, each week of the season getting better. She is showing a lot of maturity in racing and training and also in team leadership.” Stilley said. She added, “John is a great asset to the team. He is so consistent, and like Katie, he shows great leadership ability.” 

Portland State may have done well in the past two races, but there is always something that can be worked on. The only suggestion that Stilley makes for the teams (besides working on pacing, which she says is something that always can be improved) is to maintain their momentum levels. 

“We need to work on keeping that up. It’s hard when we’re having such a good season. It’s easy to fall back and not work as hard. We need to stay aggressive,” Stilley said.

As for next year at this time, Stilley is optimistic and has high hopes for the teams. 

“There are several freshmen who are really performing well and are making the transition to college smoothly…There are so many good young runners, which is good for the future years,” Stilley said.

Stilley also hopes that next year, the Viks will continue to move forward and place a little higher in the conference and regional competitions. This year, two of PSU’s top four runners—Endicott and Fuller—will graduate, but according to Stilley, that leaves room for younger runners to improve and return next year fit and ready for the competition they will have to face.