SAN FRANCISCO — Santa Clara cross country began the year with its best season-opening performance in more than a decade on Saturday at the 25th USF Invitational. The men's team featured sophomore Jack Davidson and redshirt senior Joey Berriatua in the top 10 on its way to a second-place finish in the 8-kilometer race at Golden Gate Park's Hellman Hollow Meadow.
Saturday morning marks the best finish for the Broncos at the USF Invitational since the men and women each won the event in 2007. Santa Clara's men finished no higher than fourth place in the nine previous years at the same meet.
Davidson's 25:51.4 and Berriatua's 26:01.8 were good for sixth and seventh place, respectively. The Broncos had 42 points and finished only 13 points behind host and meet winner San Francisco. Sophomore Marisa Sanchez topped the women's team with a 6-kilometer 22nd place finish (23:36) and the Broncos took fifth as a team.
Davidson was one of six runners to crack the 26-minute mark, and finished with the third-best time among the field of Division I participants. Berriatua, who ran his first cross country race since Nov. 13, 2015, posted his best finish in four tries at the USF Invite; his previous top mark was 22nd in 2015.
Freshmen James Konugres (11th place) and Zach Litoff (14th place) made an impact for the Broncos as part of the team's scoring contingent in their Santa Clara debuts. Senior and Bronco veteran Noah Westfall (16th place) rounded out SCU's top five.
The Broncos outraced several Bay Area teams: Cal, San José State, UC Davis and West Coast Conference Rival Saint Mary's, as well as Alaska-Anchorage. Santa Clara and the Gaels are slated for a dual later in September.
Freshman Ellie Kopf (23:40.6 – 23rd place) and junior Bevin McCullough (23:44.3 – 25th place) kept pace with Sanchez. Junior Jamie Ferris (30th place) and freshman Sarah King (33rd place) also scored for Santa Clara.
The Broncos faced a field featuring San Francisco, San José State, Alaska-Anchorage and Cal. The Dons ran away with the event by sweeping the top four spots and securing 18 points to distance themselves from the Spartans, who took second with 56 points.
QUOTABLE (ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH PETE CUSHMAN)
"Today was all about getting our race legs back and getting the freshmen accustomed to 6k and 8k distances."
"This men's team has the potential to be one of our better teams, but certainly has some work cut out for it to achieve that. Right now, we just want to focus on the process and get a little better each day."
"The women competed well. Marisa Sanchez ran aggressively — which we were happy to see — and I think she can bring along Bevin, Jamie, and all the freshmen with her. Like the men, there's work to be done, but it's a good group. They work hard and they are hungry to get better."
• More than half of the team's roster (30 of 51 runners) competed on Saturday morning.
• The Broncos have opened up their cross country schedule at the USF Invitational for 13 straight years.
Santa Clara will send only its women's team to the Sundodger Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 16. The Broncos return to the course as a full team for a dual against West Coast Conference foe Saint Mary's on Friday, September 22 at Baylands Park in nearby Sunnyvale, California.
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