Golden Bears Open 2009 Season at USF Invitational

Sept. 1, 2009

at USF Invitational
Saturday, Sept. 5
Golden Gate Park
Women's Race - 9:15 a.m. (5000m)
Men's Race - 10 a.m. (8000m)

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CAL OPENS 2009 SEASON: California opens the 2009 cross country season when the Golden Bear men's and women's teams will compete at the 17th annual San Francisco Invitational Saturday, Sept. 5 at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The women's 5K race begins at 9:15 a.m., followed by the men's 8K event at 10 a.m. The course, which begins and ends at Speedway Meadow, is composed primarily of grass and dirt trails with gradual uphill and downhill slopes.

Last year, the Cal men took third behind Stanford and USF. Sophomore Matt H. Miller, then running in his first race for the Bears, led the squad with a third-place showing after covering the course in 24:37.60. For the women, Cal prevailed over eight other schools. Gabriela Rios-Sotelo was the fastest Bear runner (3rd, 18:06.30). Returning team members who participated in 2008 include Keena Kohl (8th, 18:24.30), Crystal Esparza (12th, 18:50.50) and Taylor Dutch (21st, 19:01.50).

CAL MEN SEEK 3RD STRAIGHT NCAA BERTH: After back-to-back appearances at the NCAA championships - including a 22nd-place finish last fall - Cal has demonstrated that it has built one of the premier distance programs in the country. For 2009, the Bears look to maintain their elite level, but must do so with a young squad that will be missing four of its top seven runners from a year ago. Junior Kari Karlsson ran in the No. 4 most of last season, including a 30th-place finish at NCAA regionals, while junior Steve Sodaro alternated at the No. 5 spot. Key newcomers include James Brewer, who was a semifinalist in the 1500 meters running for his native England at the World Championships over the summer, Chris Vizcaino, a native of nearby Lafayette, who has transferred from Iona after helping the school to an NCAA runner-up standing last fall.

WOMEN POISED FOR BREAKOUT SEASON: Head coach Tony Sandoval believes Cal has a strong chance for a break-through season in the 2009 and qualify for the NCAA national meet. The Bears are led by a pair of experienced cross country runners who have posted impressive outdoor track times in the distance events. Senior Alison Greggor competed in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA national meet, and Deborah Maier recorded an NCAA regional-qualifying mark in the 5000 as a freshman last year. Chelsea Reilly and Taylor Bryson - both redshirts in '08 - are also back on the active roster. Freshman Sofia Oberg joins the roster after participating in the World Junior Cross Country Championships, while Hillary Hayes, also a freshman, was fourth at the California state meet in the 3200 meters last spring.

HEAD COACH Tony Sandoval: Tony Sandoval is in his 18th season as head coach of the Cal men's and women's cross country teams and his 28th year overall at the university. Also in his third year as head men's and women's track & field coach, Sandoval was the head women's track & field and cross country coach at Cal from 1982-91, prior to the merger of the men's and women's programs into a single entity in 1992. Over the past two years, he has guided the Golden Bear men's cross country team to its best finishes in school history, claiming 15th place at the NCAA championship meet in 2007 and coming in 22nd place last fall. A combined eight men's and women's runners have gained All-American status under his guidance, including Yosef Gehbray, who became just the third Cal male ever to earn cross country recognition last year. Among the women who have benefited from his coaching are Magdalena Lewy, a U.S. Olympian in the marathon in 2008, and Alysia Johnson, the U.S. champion in the 800 meters in 2007. The Bear women finished 15th at the 1984 NCAA meet, then returned in 1988 to take ninth place.

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