SAN FRANCISCO — At Saturday's season-opening USF invitational, 23 Bronco cross country runners took to Golden Gate Park's Speedway Meadow to begin their 2014 campaign. Ten Bronco women competed against eight teams in the 5k and 13 Bronco men competed against nine teams in the 8k, with each team taking fourth place in its respective race.
Santa Clara's top seven finishers in the women's 5k each completed the first mile within 6:05. Amia Nash, Camille Dyer, Grayson Murphy, Kelly Ryan and Hannah Wood each picked up roughly 10-to-15 spots over the final two kilometers. Head Coach Felipe Montoro said the first mile times and negative split were part of the Bronco race plan.
"The women were successful in executing the race plan," Montoro said. "We learned a lot about some of our new runners, and we're excited to head to camp and get some work in to preparing for the postseason."
Murphy — one of seven freshmen on the women's team — led the way in her cross country debut, finishing in 23rd place with a time of 19:23.9. Santa Clara's top finisher in last season's USF invitational came in 36th place.
"Graysee Murphy really impressed us with her first cross country race ever," Montoro said. "She's a great competitor and has a great deal of ability. We look forward to helping her develop her talents as a distance runner."
The top five Bronco runners spanned 23rd to 27th place and were only separated by 2.5 seconds. Santa Clara's upperclassmen Nash (19:25.2), Dyer (19:25.6) and Ryan (19:25.8) alongside freshman Wood (19:26.4) rounded out the top five.
"Amia, Camille and Kelly did a great job leading our group today," Montoro said. "We put it on our veterans to take charge, and they executed perfectly."
The Bronco men set out with a similar race plan, to get through the first mile in 5:15 and use a negative split to pick up spots late in the race. Newcomer and 2014 Harvard graduate Kurt Ruegg topped Bronco runners with a 21st-place finish in 26:12.9. Junior Ryan Greenough took 22nd place with a time of 26:13.6 and sophomore Joey Berriatua placed 23rd after running the 8k in 26:14.9.
"With the same plan as last year, we managed to get eight men to run faster within the same game plan parameters, which is very encouraging," Montoro said. "Kurt, Greenough and Joey looked very sharp today. They were under control, and worked up through the field over the last two miles.
"It was good to see our top five working together, which is going to be one of the keys to our success this year. It was huge to see Greenough make that jump to the top group. He worked hard this summer."
Eight Broncos placed in the top 36 overall, including senior Peter Stephens as well as juniors Bryan Crook and Adrian Hinojosa. Freshmen Noah Westfall (34th place, 26:38.4) and Andrew Melendez (36th, 26:46.0) were two of three first-year Broncos to make their collegiate debuts at Speedway Meadow.
"The first experience at the 8k distance can be challenging for freshmen, and Andrew and Noah showed that they're well prepared for the collegiate distances and competition," Montoro said.
The Broncos next compete Sep. 13 as hosts of the West Coast Conference Preview Meet, one of three events held at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale, Calif. this season.
"We're looking forward to a bigger test in two weeks at the WCC preview meet, which we are hosting," Montoro said. "We'll have a better idea what our teams can do after that test."