Cal State Fullerton’s men’s and women’s cross country teams are prepared to start on the right foot with their season-opening meet, the Mark Covert Classic, on Saturday, Sept. 1 at Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Brea, Calif.
Head Coach John Elders said the top-returning men this season are redshirt sophomore Jayson Perez, junior Anthony Castellon and sophomore Marco Zaragoza. Other key-returning runners are junior Brandon Cook and sophomore Brandon Perry.
Incoming freshman runners who Elders said “have a legitimate shot at being in the top seven” are Cristian Aviles from Valencia High School, Donald Bernard from Bishop Manogue Catholic High School, Jeff Little from Villa Park High School and David Ramirez from Buena Park High School.
In addition, the team will also include transfer runners: redshirt sophomore Sean Krinik from Valencia High School and Washington University, and junior Daniel Ramos from Antelope Valley College.
“Sean was the national high school champion in the 800 meters, in track,” Elders said. “He’s a really great addition to our program. Cross country is kind of a secondary thing for him, but he definitely is going to be in the mix in cross.”
The competition between runners and teams will bring out the best in them, he said.
“That’s like 11 guys probably vying for that top—those top seven spots,” Elders said. “So, that’s going to be a really competitive situation—should be—help us be a better team, you know, the better the competition, the better, the more they’ll push each other and all that, so, I’m looking forward to that.”
Men’s team captain redshirt Brian Aleman, a 21-year-old civil engineering major, said that as a team, they feel good about the season and have been running voluntary runs this summer to prepare themselves. In addition, the team went camping last week, which made Aleman feel that the team is really united.
“Our main goal is to be consistent with our workout, races and runs,” Aleman said. “Obviously we want to improve on our last year placement at conference and regionals. Jayson and I feel that we have the right people to meet these goals.”
Women’s team captain Casey Candelaria, a 21-year-old child and adolescent development major, said the team is also looking good this season, especially with its newest addition.
“We have a really good freshman, and just a few girls that are stepping up from last year,” Candelaria said. “I’m excited to see what we can do and just to step it up from last year.”
Freshman Emily Taylor is “the fastest incoming freshman,” Elders said. The Marina High School graduate ran a 4:56 in the 1600 while on her high school’s track and field team. Elders said Taylor “could really compete for being top runner” this season.
Candelaria said the team is working on “being more team-minded and setting goals.”
“You can get caught up in kind of just going through the motions and not really having goals,” she said. “We really want to focus on our goals this season and also eating right.”
Elders said he hopes that this year will be a foundation for the future, in establishing a team culture and changing the team’s work ethic. He said he wants to change what has kept them from being the team they can be, and for the team to all be working toward the same goal.
In addition, he’d like the runners to live the runner’s lifestyle, which is a commitment to living the right lifestyle, with a well-balanced diet and sleep.
“Our assistant coach, Caitlin (Jennings) has really helped us with our diets and kind of just guiding us with what to eat and stuff,” Candelaria said. “That really makes a difference, so, we’re definitely working on our nutrition this year.”
The women’s team is also working on creating a better team atmosphere where runners will know they can count on one another and not lose focus on the goals throughout the season, she said.
Elders said senior women’s team captains Candelaria and Lexie Bravo display great leadership.
“Both are really dedicated gals and train really hard,” Elders said. “I’m excited about their leadership.”
Candelaria said she is looking forward to the Covert Classic—especially with Covert being there—and hopes that the home meet will attract more supporters.
The season’s opening meet was renamed to honor to the legendary alumnus runner who was named the NCAA individual cross country champion in 1970, and placed seventh at U.S. Olympic marathon trials in 1972, according to CNN.