“Time to take it home.”
These were the words of Highlander runner Faith Makau when media asked of the final 1200-meter surge which netted her the Big West conference’s individual title — with a career-best time of 20:27.50 in the 6K — and helped propel UCR women’s cross country team to a fourth-place finish at the annual conference championships this past Saturday, October 31.
The “home” quote is fitting as, for the second consecutive year, the championships were being hosted in none other than Riverside, California. Historically, the Highlander men and women have done well when competing on their home terrain — the women’s team’s four consecutive top-two finishes at the annual Highlander Invitational can attest to that — and the women actually entered Saturday as one of the favorites to potentially walk (run?) away with a conference title.
As the team failed to live up to such great expectations, finishing fourth overall on the day (which, is still an incredibly solid mark) Makau’s victory indeed served as the day’s high point. Makau’s individual title marks Riverside second consecutive of such as it follows Raquel Hefflin’s memorable, career-closing victory at the championships last season.
The rest of the women also fared well on the day, as sophomore Weslie Totten found her way into the top five with a fourth-place finish and new personal best of 20:43.80. Dominique Dowell (30th), Emily Sanchez (36th), Briana Simmons (44th) and Christina Shamirian (68th) round out the rest of the group of UCR runners who combined for a total of 109 points on the day, landing 40 points behind third-place finisher, UC Davis and a whopping 70 points behind conference title winner, Cal Poly.
For the men’s team, the story was more of the same from this season as they were once again led by senior Cody Jordan, who finished 10th overall with a time of 24:30.98 in the final home race of his career. The finish caps off a strong year for Jordan in which he finished in the top 10 for each of the five events he competed in.
Yet, as was a common theme throughout the regular season, the rest of the Highlander men couldn’t support Jordan’s strong performance, failing to land anywhere near the top 10 as UCR’s next-best runner was freshman Solomon Dmeku-Ousman who finished 38th overall with a time of 25:52.95. Dmeku-Ousman was followed by Garrett Hernandez (41st), Aaron Nguyen (44th), John Green (48th), Carlos Lopez (59th) and Douglas Castro (61st).
Given the circumstances — Jordan’s final home race and an event held on more-than-familiar territory — the result for the men is disappointing. Nevertheless, they get an opportunity to redeem themselves — albeit against a tougher field — while the women will look to continue a strong season in the NCAA Regionals on Saturday, November 13 held in Seattle, Washington.