bleedCrimson.net will be interviewing the coaches from the men's and women's cross country teams throughout their season. This week we spoke with assistant coach Paul Harkins and talked about the men's and women's teams' first place sweep at Arizona State and their upcoming meet at Santa Clara.
bleedCrimson.net: The men's and women's teams finished in first place at the ASU Invitational. You have to be pleased with the result especially heading into the second half of the season.
Paul Harkins: Yeah, we were definitely excited. It's the first time our men have won a meet in quite some time. The women had nearly a perfect score. I was told that it was the first time in nine years that any school has won both the men's and women's races at Arizona State. I think it just shows that things are going pretty well here and it's a little bit different than it has been in the past and hopefully that's a good thing.
bc.net: The girls placed in five of the six top scoring spots and just missed out on the overall individual win by just 1.6 seconds [the women's 5k winner ran unattached].
PH: It was definitely Brandi's [Gutierrez] breakout race of the year so far. She's been running 2 to 3 so far for us but she's got the talent to be our top girl. She's coming on and getting better each and every week and it was definitely a breakout race for her. I think she ran roughly 50 seconds faster than she did last year when she led us last year. Which just goes to show that our entire team has improved an immense amount also. Our four and five girls [this year] would have been right behind where our number one girl was last year. I think we had five girls ahead of where our second place girl was last year on the same course. The improvement's been tremendous. Ingrid's [Fores] led us with back-to-back WAC Athlete of the Week but she lost a contact with a mile to go and was having trouble seeing. She still toughed it out obviously and still ran pretty well (Ed. Note: Ingrid finished in the third scoring position and 5th overall). She still ran a minute faster than she did a year ago. She's a phenomenally better athlete than she was a year ago at this point.
Amy Arenas has done a great job going from being a walk-on to being the number two/three girl on our team. The women did a fantastic job. Christina [Herrera] and Brittany [Hurtado] ran fantastic also. Brittany got a little bit sick that day and we didn't even know if we were going to run her and then she had her best race of the season so I'm glad we did (Ed. Note: Brittany finished in the 4th scoring position and 7th overall).
On the men's side Ian Ruybalid was solid for us again. He's led us in three of four races now. Josh Sifuentas had his breakout race of the year as well as Anthony Ellis. Those guys both ran their best races of the year to be second and third for us. Josh was a guy that was All-Conference three years ago so if he can get back to that form, which I think he's getting pretty close, it's exciting. I don't know what we can do later on in the season but right now it looks pretty good. I think there's a chance that we could have two podium teams at the conference meet.
bc.net: This weekend you head to California for the Santa Clara Invitational.
PH: It's kind of a pre-WAC meet actually. I think just about every school has it on their schedule except maybe Utah State and Louisiana Tech. It's definitely going to be a good early test to see where we stack up on both the men's and women's side going into the conference meet. It's some different competition, we'll get a lot of California schools that we haven't seen so far this year that I think we can be very competitive with. It's a big meet but I wouldn't put it past us to be Top 5 on both sides. It's going to be a flat, fast course. It's going to be exciting because the girls and guys are going to get some pretty decent PRs.
bc.net: Being able to win both the men's and the women's and to do that starting off the second half of the season, what does that do for the confidence of the team?
PH: I think they're in a good way. As I was reading off the results to the men last week I was telling them, "Well we got 34 points and great job here by this person and this person" and they were like, "Well did we win Coach?" and I said, "Oh yeah! Did I forget to mention that?" So yeah, they're definitely excited that we got a win and it definitely helps our confidence going into the next half. We're not racing as much, we're taking a week off to train in between each of our meets but we're definitely starting to narrow down our focus towards the conference meet. We've got one more tuneup meet before conference and I like it because it is a nice flat fast course so you feel good when you come off of a course like that. I think we're definitely in a good way heading into the next three weeks.