Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cal Poly Dominates Big West Conference Cross Country Championships

Cal Poly Dominates Big West Conference Cross Country Championships

Cal Poly Dominates Big West Conference Cross Country Championships
Mustang Men's Score is Fourth-Best in 48-Year History of Meet; Women's Team Tallies Conference's Largest Margin of Victory in 10 Years

Hutchins, Bilo Win Titles to Lead Sweep

Post-Meet Interviews: Clayton Hutchins | Peyton Bilo

KAHUKU, Hawai'i — The Cal Poly cross country program dominated the Big West Conference Championships on Saturday morning, sweeping both the team and individual titles in historic fashion at Kahuku Golf Course.

To start the windy meet, the Mustang men's team won the 8k with a nearly-perfect score of 18 points. They were 35 ahead of second-place UC Santa Barbara's 53.

The 18 points represent the conference's best score at the championships since the 2007 Mustangs won with a record of 15. It's also the fourth-best score since the meet was founded 48 years ago, with the only other better scores coming from the 1986 UC Irvine team and the 1996 Boise State squad (both with 16).

Additionally, the 35-point gap is the largest margin of victory for the Cal Poly men since 2009 (when they were 39 above the Gauchos). 

Leading the way for Cal Poly (for a fourth time this season) was Clayton Hutchins, who won the individual title with a performance of 24:36.1.

The redshirt junior was in a tight fifth-place position after the first split (off to a start of 6:58.1) before gaining ground to third by the next checkpoint at 14:37.8 (neck-and-neck at the front alongside UCSB senior Adam Avila and senior teammate Swarnjit Boyal).

Hutchins and Boyal then moved in front, establishing an eight-second lead on Avila approaching the 21-minute mark. Cal Poly's Alex Heuchert, another redshirt junior, also was key to the dominance, overtaking Avila by three seconds by the third split (five seconds back of his teammates).

The Hutchins-Boyal-Heuchert trio had consistently been a pacesetter for the Mustangs throughout the regular season, and the championships proved to be no different, as Boyal went on to claim runner-up honors at 24:46.0, complemented by Heuchert's third-place 24:50.1.

A duo of true freshmen also scored for the Mustangs, as Justin Robison was fifth with a time of 25:07.0, ahead of Chas Cook in seventh at 25:22.7.

Next up, sophomores Peter Cotsirilos (in ninth at 25:27.3) and David Galvez (11th, 25:33.1) displaced the competition for Cal Poly, and sophomore Mikey Giguere (19th, 25:50.6) and senior Dimitri Voytilla (38th, 26:40.5) also finished in the top 40 within the field of 63.

For the men, the championship was the 14th Big West title as a team under head coach Mark Conover, as well as the 26th conference championship since 1969. On an individual basis, Hutchins' blue ribbon is the 10th individual Big West title for the men (20th all-time individually).

Fifteen minutes afterward, the women's 6k started at 7:45.

Cal Poly won its second straight title, this time compiling a team score of 27 points. The Mustangs — No. 36 in the latest national rankings — were 45 points ahead of second-place UC Davis' 72.

The 27-point total is the Mustangs' best score at the meet since joining the conference before the fall of 1996, as well as the Big West's best score and top margin of victory since the 2006 season (when UCSB beat Long Beach State 26-72).

Peyton Bilo won the individual championship with a time of 21:04.1. The sophomore — a four-time conference athlete of the week this year — was 17.4 seconds faster than UCSB junior Jenna Hinkle to earn the crown.

Racing on her home course, Hawai'i junior Montana Martinez held a tenth-of-a-second lead on Bilo after the first split, before the top three seized control in succession nearing 17 minutes (with Bilo at 16:38.0, Hinkle challenging at 16:49.6 and UC Riverside junior Faith Makau — last year's medalist — at 16:56.8).

Mustang senior Ashley Windsor also steadily moved up as the race progressed, ultimately finishing in fourth place by running a 21:37.4.

Windsor was closely followed in the scoring by junior Molly Haar in fifth at 21:38.1, true freshman Cate Ratliff in eighth at 21:56.4 and sophomore Katie Izzo in ninth at 22:00.9.

Sophomore Julia Vasquez (17th with a time of 22:35.3) and junior Kylie Nishisaka (20th at 22:40.3) also displaced the field for Cal Poly, and sophomore Hannah Hull (30th at 23:19.8) and true freshman Morgin Coonfield (50th, 24:14.4) also clocked in the top 50 among 74 competitors.

The back-to-back championships place the Cal Poly women's total of Big West trophies at six. Including previous conferences going back to 1980 and the AIAW, it's the women's team's 22nd conference championship all-time (plus 15 individual championships).

Combined between women and men, Cal Poly has now won 48 conference championships.

The postseason will continue with the West Regional meet in Sacramento on Nov. 11, sending qualifiers to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. on Nov. 19.

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