Sunnyvale, CA – The Thunderbirds cross country team faced its toughest competition of the year at the Bronco Invitational on Saturday placing fourth and 12th in women and men’s competition against a field dominated by NCAA Division I competitors. Maria Bernard and Evan Elder were the Thunderbirds top placing runners in their respective races, in the T-Birds’ lone trip to California this cross-country season.
Four West Coast Conference schools and 29 programs were featured in both the men and women’s fields on Saturday morning, with competition taking place at Baylands Regional Park in the southern region of the San Francisco Bay Area.
In the women’s race, the Thunderbirds and Oklahoma State were neck and neck after runners one through four as UBC matched each of the four OK State runner’s positions, either a spot ahead or spot behind. In the end, British Columbia finished in fourth (122), while Oklahoma State took the title with a total team score of 82. Cal Poly and Idaho State snuck in ahead of UBC with 92 and 121 points, respectively. UBC was the top-scoring non-NCAA institution on Saturday morning.
The highlight of the day was Bernard’s stellar third place finish in the women’s 6km invitational race, covering the course in a time of 20:24. Amelie de Fenoyl followed in 16th while Tamara Harris (23rd) and Natalia Hawthorn (27th) also broke the top-30. Kirsten Lee rounded out the team scoring placing 75th, helping UBC secure their top-4 finish.
The men’s 8km invitational race was dominated by Oklahoma State, which has won three of the past five NCAA Division I Cross Country titles, topping the team scoring with 30 points. British Columbia finished in 12th spot with 358 points and sported a stellar team average of 24:57. The team podium was fully occupied with NCAA D-I powerhouses as the Stanford Cardinal took second, followed by the Cal Poly Mustangs in third.
Elder set a lifetime best with a time of 24:45, en route to a 66th-place finish, which led the Thunderbirds on Saturday morning. Two other T-Birds eclipsed the 25-minute barrier including Will Cliff and Jack Williams while Matt Galea narrowly missed out running 25:01, a personal best. Bilal Shamsi wrapped up team scoring running 25:15, good for 99th overall. BC native Justin Marpole Bird won the 8km race in a time of 23:38.
Saturday marks the conclusion of the season meets for the Thunderbirds as the team enjoys a three-week break before the Association of Independent Institutions Conference Championships in Clinton, Iowa. Several athletes will be competing at the BC Cross Country Championships next Saturday, October 25 to secure their spot on the Iowa trip.