SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Santa Clara capped off a hard week of training with a surprising third place finish at the Aggie Invite. The Broncos were separated from fifth place by only six points. Redshirt Michael Helms finished in tenth place and 14 seconds behind Charlie Brenneman's school record. Thomas Chapman and Benjamin Gauen led the team with top 30 finishes.
Devlin Croal led the Broncos out with a fast surge off the line. Dominick Guidera also pushed hard early and both established high placings in the massive pack. The rest of the Mission Harriers stayed off the fast pace and it paid dividends. The leaders hit 4.55 at the mile and Helms led out Chapman and Gauen, 15 seconds behind the front runners. Croal was overtaken by these three and held a gap to Mike Richmond and Ricky Brackett. Kevin Edwards led out Stephen Moore as they trailed Heath Packard. Guidera fell back and had Chris Spicer and Tobias Lopez in tow. Michael Neumann went on a two-mile time trial. Michael has been suffering from fatigue and had a blood test during the week. Mike hit 5:30 at the mile and came crashing down to 11:42. Michael hit a faster split in Sacramento in his season opening race and will be cutting back his training to get some strength.
Lopez fell of his back and hung gallantly the rest of the way. Guidera left Spicer well back in the second mile and maintained his margin the rest of the way. Guidera broke the 30-minute barrier in his first 8K by a substantial margin and Spicer is slowly coming back. Spicer was almost two minutes slower than last season, which is due to his time off from training while recovering from a fall off a roof while building homes in El Salvador this summer. Packard began fading back to Edwards and Moore. After three miles, he lost contact and hung in through the finish. Edwards kept his composure as Moore executed his plot of moving up in the field. Edwards eclipsed his 8K PR by over a minute in pushing into the top seven for the team.
Richmond began pulling in Croal in the second mile while Brackett began falling back with a cramp. Moore bridged the gap from Edwards to these three in the third mile. Croal moved strongly in mile four and gapped the three teammates. Moore surged in the last mile but could not overcome Croal. Ricky was barely hanging on the fourth mile but came back strongly to get by Richmond. Mike held his form as both he and Croal continue their amazing success with two minute improvements from last season's Aggie's times.
Helms continued to lead out Chapman through three miles. Gauen fell back from Chapman after two miles. The redshirt surged in mile four and left Chapman behind. Gauen kept his gap even with Chapman in mile four and all three were clocked with sub five-minute efforts to the finish from mile four. The trio quickly moved up in the field as pack after pack faded in the last mile and a half. A big confidence boost for the team as they as a whole held a faster pace for 8K than they did over four miles two weeks ago.
The Broncos easily handled West Region foes San Jose State and Sacramento State while being beaten for the second week in a row by Cal. Cal added four runners who did not compete in their previous matchup with the Broncos, which resulted in a larger deficit at Aggie. Sacramento held out their top runners, Dustin Diaz and Erik Mencarini. After a four-point loss to the Broncos on their home course, the weakened Hornets lost by 122 this week. San Jose State held out Footlocker finalist Jesse McLeod and ended up 68 points behind the Broncos. The Spartans came off a second place finish to USD at USD's home meet. SJSU was very close to the 2000 Mission Harrier team time on USD's course. The Broncos have some catching up to do match their team from last year and narrow the gap this year to USD.
The Mission Harriers head to Pascoe, Washington next week for the Big Cross Invite. This is a homecoming for four Broncos (Gauen, Richmond, Brackett, and Spicer) as Pascoe is the Host City for the Washington High School State Cross Country Championship that they all raced in during their prep careers. The Mission Harrier focus will be on Eastern Washington, which defeated the Broncos in their last meeting at the 2000 West Region Championship.