November 5, 2005

Individual Stars Lead Cross Country

Nov. 5, 2005

By Taylor Dalton
The Santa Clara

The West Coast Conference Championships for both men's and women's cross country were held this past Saturday at the Crystal Springs cross country course in Belmont. The Broncos displayed their talent and endurance with a few exceptional runners, but overall, they finished in the middle of the pack with the men's team taking fourth place and the women's team taking third.

Junior distance runner Shannon Bell starred in the championship race as she finished in second place overall individually. Her time of 18:10 on the 5,000-meter course is the second best performance for a Bronco in school history, just behind Kim Bates, who recorded an 18:05 run in 2002. Furthermore, her second-place finish at the WCC Championships ties the school record for best individual performance ever.

Bell, who suffered from a severe leg injury last year, hadn't competed in a championship race in almost two years. Nevertheless, on Saturday morning, Bell showed her fans and her competitors just how far she had come since the injury occurred.

"The conference race this past weekend was really fun," Bell said. It felt great to be back running at Crystal Springs again and everything just seemed to click. The weather was perfect for racing and the fans were equally amazing. Family, friends and even a couple of other Santa Clara teams out there were cheering us on and their energy really helped push me through some of the tougher parts of the course."

Freshman Veronica Vazquez was also awarded an honorable mention for her 13th-place overall finish. Vazquez exceeded her personal best by nearly a minute at the championship race, posting a time of 18:52. Along with Shannon Bell's performance, which earned her recognition as first-team All-league, an award given out to only the top ten runners in the WCC, these two Broncos drove the women's team to their third-place overall finish.

For the men's team, which finished with five runners in the top 25, senior John Paul Thyken and freshman Michael Hannon headlined with a 13th-place overall finish and a 15th-place overall finish, respectively. Thyken clocked in at 26:49 on the 8,000-meter course and Hannon crossed the finish line at 26:53. Awarded honorable mention in the All-league selections, both Thyken and Hannon cemented their status as team leaders.

"We had a couple of individuals on both the men's and women's teams that stepped up in the championship race, but we were mildly disappointed in the overall team performance," cross-country head coach Tom Service said.

Even with all of the individual accolades put forth by these runners, it was still not enough to lead the teams to first-place finishes. At Crystal Springs, Portland placed first overall in the team competition on both the men's side and the women's side.

Service further elaborated that the two teams are considerably young and a lack of experience might have contributed to the disappointing finish.

"We look forward to taking something positive out of this race," said Service, about the team's future hopes.

Although the Broncos did not perform as well as they had hoped at the event, Bell reflected optimistically about her experience on the team.

"Our team has had a great season and we've really worked hard together. Having such a strong pack to train and race with has been awesome."

The Bronco Harriers will next compete at the Fleet Feet Open in Sacramento on Nov. 5.