Herrera Wins Pac-12 Individual Crown; CU Men and Women Place Second
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — Colorado senior Eduardo Herrera entered the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships on Friday as one of the favorites and did not disappoint, winning his first individual conference title in 22 minutes, 30.9 seconds on the 8-kilometer course at Chambers Creek Park.
"This is annually one of the best, if not the best, cross country conference in the country," head coach Mark Wetmore said. "It's hard to win as a team and it's hard to win it as an individual. I think we had a long dry spell before (Joe) Klecker won a year ago. So to have Lalo win it this year is rewarding. He had the best training of his life since we all got shut down in March. He did very good work alone, which distance winners have to do and it paid off today."
Herrera came into the meet with a second and third-place finish from his two previous races, leading the Buffs in both. Friday's race was no different as he led the ninth-ranked Buffaloes to a second-place team finish through cold, windy and rainy conditions. CU recorded 60 points behind No. 4 Stanford's 28.
The men ran after the No. 6 Colorado women also recorded a runner-up finish behind Stanford. The No. 5 Cardinal defeated CU 30-50 for its second title in as many years.
PAC-12 CHAMPION: From the start of the men's race, it was clear that Herrera was focused and had one goal on his mind: winning the individual title. There was a pretty big pack to start, but around the 3k mark, he was leading the pack with Stanford's Charles Hicks.
But as the main pack hit the midway point, Herrera was ready to make a move and started to pull away from the pack. As he pulled away, Hicks moved with him. It was time to separate from the rest of the field.
"I wanted to make my move if I could go," Herrera said. "It was a little earlier that I saw Charles and I thought he made his move there, but I think he was just trying to get in the lead and get comfortable. I've been working really hard over the summer and I was confident with my strength so I wouldn't have a problem with taking off after 4k to go. I just wanted to keep pushing the tempo. I was trying in surges to see if he was going to hang on and I mean I just made it a strong race, an honest one."
The two stayed together a little while longer but Herrera was gradually putting distance between him and Hicks. With 500 meters left, the lead was significant and he was able to cruise to the finish for an 11-second win as Hicks came in at 22:41.6. Those two had separated so much from the field that the third-place finisher, Oregon's Jackson Mestler, crossed the finish in 22:54.7.
This is the first time Herrera has finished in the top-10 at the conference meet, improving from 13th at the 2019 championship. The biggest change for him in the last year, according to his post-race interview, is his mentality.
"I want to go out and potentially get a professional contract and run pro," he said. "I think that just kind of changed my mentality in terms of training and just trying to be the best I can for my team. I know they're working hard for me and I'm doing the same in return."
THE MEN'S RACE: Technically on paper, the Buffs finished ahead of where they were projected as Washington was ranked eighth, one position ahead of No. 9 CU. The Buffs edged the Huskies 60-66, moving up in the final 2k of the race for the finish.
Herrera was the star of the day, picking up the individual title and making it look easy while doing it. Colorado's other senior, Alec Hornecker, recorded an 11th-place finish (23:04.9).
Austin Vancil was third for the team, finishing 13th overall in 23:15.3, which was a nice improvement from his 38th-place finish in 2019. Ethan Powell, a transfer from Kansas State, also turned in a top-20 finish, placing 16th in 23:23.0. Rounding out the score for CU was Hunter Appleton's 19th-place finish (23:30.8).
Paxton Smith did not score but improved from his 2019 finish (35th) as he crossed 23rd overall in 23:35.3. Colorado's other non-scorers were Jace Aschbrenner (24th), Josh Torres (40th) and Caleb Niednagel (43rd).
"Stanford's a pretty young team too so I can't blame it on youth" Wetmore said. "Stanford ran some really young guys who were ahead of our young guys. The men did not have a great day. After Lalo, we weren't brilliant. There were a couple of pretty good races. It was a very nice race for Ethan Powell, but this was not their A-game by any means."
THE WOMEN'S RACE: Like the men, the women finished exactly where they were projected to on paper. Stanford put four in the top 10 and had its final scorer place 12th overall to record 20 points. The Buffs also did well, placing three in the top-10 and all five of its scorers in the top 20 for 50 points. It was a tight race between the Cardinal and Buffaloes the entire way, but in the end, the scale tipped in favor of Stanford.
Washington, the third-highest ranked team in the polls at 12th, finished third with 85 points and Oregon State, which is 24th in the national rankings, was fourth with 100 points.
Leading the way for the women was senior Rachel McArthur, who ended up fifth in 19:22.10 on the 6-kilometer course. While Washington's Haley Herberg ran away from the field from the start and would go on to win in 19:02.50, the chase pack stayed back and McArthur stayed back with that group until a few pulled away to try to reel in Herberg.
McArthur did make some moves but never seemed to get too far away from fifth in the standings. She crossed the finish 0.2 seconds behind Stanford's Julia Heymach but had over 11 seconds on the sixth-place finisher, Poppy Tank (Utah), who ran 19:33.80. The finish was an improvement of 13 spots from 2019 for McArthur.
"Rachel's disappointed," Wetmore said. "I'm not, but she wants to win races. She doesn't want to be fifth and she doesn't want to be 20 or 25 seconds behind. I admire that in her.
Second for CU was Abby Nichols, who clocked in at 19:40.30 for eighth to tie her best finish of the season as she was eight at the Battle Born Collegiate Challenge. The other top-10 finisher for CU was Madie Boreman, who placed 10th in 19:48.60. Her finish was a 21-place improvement from 2019.
Micaela Degenero was right behind Boreman, finishing 11th in 19:50.20 and Emily Covert was 16th to round out CU's score (20:01.50). Although she did not score, Elizabeth Constien turned in her best Pac-12 performance. She moved up from 64th in 2019 to 18th, finishing in 20:04.90.
"The women's team ran pretty well for where we are," said Wetmore. "I'll give them a good grade for today, particularly where we were back in October. We were in big trouble last October when we took a look at ourselves down in Oklahoma. They made a lot of progress. They still have a lot of room to go. Stanford beat them soundly today. Stanford was better. We can make some steps in 10 days at the NCAA, but we have to make big steps by six months from now."
Colorado's other runners at Pac-12s were Camille Jackson (24th), Annie Hill (25th), Kaitlyn Barthell (30th) and Whitney Valenti (44th).
PAC-12 NOTES: Since joining the Pac-12 Conference, CU has won at least one team or one individual title in the last 10 years…CU has won 11 of 20 team cross country team championships since joining the Pac-12 in 2011…The Buffs have also won four individual titles, all in the last four years…Dani Jones won back-to-back women's titles (2017-18), while Joe Klecker won the men's title in 2019 and Herrera was this season's men's champion.
UP NEXT: The NCAA Championship Selection Show is Sunday, March 7, at 11 a.m. MT, and will be streamed on NCAA.com. The field will be made up of 31 teams.
2020 PAC-12 CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Chambers Creek Park (University Place, Wash.)
Men's 8k Team Results:
1. Stanford 28; 2. Colorado 60; 3. Washington 66; 4. Oregon 139; 5. UCLA 164; 6. Washington State 171; 7. California 177; 8. Arizona 201; 9. Arizona State 238
Men's 8k Individual Results (top 10)
1. Eduardo Herrera, CU, 22:30.9; 2. Charles Hicks, SU, 22:41.6; 3. Jackson Mestler, UO, 22:54.7; 4. Cole Sprout, SU, 22:57.9; 5. Alek Parsons, SU, 22:59.0; 6. Victor Ortiz-Rivera, UA, 22:59.8; 7. Isaac Green, UW, 23:00.6; 8. Ky Robinson, SU, 23:03.9; 9. Callum Bolger, SU, 23:04.6; 10. Luke Houser, UW, 23:04.6
Other CU Finisher:
11. Alec Hornecker, 23:04.9; 13. Austin Vancil, 23:15.3; 16. Ethan Powell, 23:23.0; 19. Hunter Appleton, 23:30.8; 23. Paxton Smith, 23:35.3; 24. Jace Aschbrenner, 23:36.1; 40. Josh Torres, 24:19.6; 43. Caleb Niednagel, 24:37.8
Women's 6k Team Results:
1. Stanford 30; 2. Colorado 50; 3. Washington 85; 4. Oregon State 100; 5. Utah 165; 6. Washington State 165; 7. California 192; 8. Arizona 201; 9. Arizona State 261; 10. UCLA 297.
Women's 6k Individual Results (top 10):
1. Haley Herberg, UW, 19:02.50; 2. Ella Donaghu, SU, 19:09.00; 3. Zofia Dudek, SU, 19:14.90; 4. Julia Heymach, SU, 19:21.90; 5. Rachel McArthur, CU 19:22.10; 6. Poppy Tank, UU, 19:33.80; 7. Kaylee Mitchell, OSU, 19:39.40; 8. Abby Nichols, CU, 19:40.30; 9. Jessica Lawson, SU, 19:41.90; 10. Madie Boreman, CU, 19:48.60.
Other CU Finishers:
11. Micaela Degenero, 19:50.20; 16. Emily Covert, 20:01.50; 18. Elizabeth Constien, 20:04.90; 24. Camille Jackson, 20:13.30; 25. Annie Hill, 20:17.20; 30; Kaitlyn Barthell, 20:23.20; 44. Whitney Valenti, 20:57.10