The Daily Aztec

CROSS COUNTRY: Season-opening race sets tone for the year

by Staff

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When a team is anointed as an “underdog,” one of two things happens.

Either they will live up to their title, come up short and lose like everyone expected them to or they’ll take it as an insult and become more inspired and motivated by it.

The San Diego State cross country team appears to be going the route of the latter.

After being picked to finish eighth in the Mountain West Conference this season, SDSU started the season strong, finishing fifth out of 15 at the Fullerton Season Opener on Saturday at Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Orange County.

The Aztecs competed in this event last year, grabbing seventh place out of 15 teams at a time of 21 minutes and seven seconds. This year SDSU came out fresh, as if they had been competing together all summer, and their effort was good enough to earn 125 points, one behind fourth place Cal State Fullerton.

“We did really well today,” assistant coach Jennifer Nanista said. “The team all ran well, stayed strong, and what really impressed me is that nobody gave up.”

The top Aztec was junior Alma Escobar with a time of 19:01.9.

“Escobar will be a great addition to our team,” Nanista said. “She’ll give us a lot of depth, and she proved today that she can do what she needs to lead the team.

“We lost a few important and consistent seniors from last year but with transfers like Alma it’ll be a great and different type of year.”

As the season gets going, SDSU is depending on their senior co-captain Anne Vieira for leadership, consistency and positive support.

“I’m really excited for the season, this will be my fifth and final season and it looks like it’ll be one of the best,” Vieira said. “We have a lot of depth this year and we have a great deal of chemistry and it showed (Saturday) as we packed well and while we ran together, the girls motivated each other saying, ‘great job’ and ‘keep going’ and it means a lot when you can hear that in the middle of a race.”

Vieira is looking forward to competing this season, but also knows that her leadership will be tested as the Aztecs will host conference this season.

“I’m really excited to host conference this year but I’m also a little anxious,” Vieira said. “It’s a lot of pressure but I’m confident that we can come out towards the top of the leader board.”

With the strong finish at its first event in Fullerton, SDSU is more than ready and looking to excel past its underdog title.

“If we can duplicate finishes and surpass expectations like we did today, it’ll be a heck of a season,” Nanista said. “We started the season off right and we’ll be a force this year.”

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