On Saturday, The Master’s University’s cross country teams will toe the line at their fifth-annual home race, The Mustang Challenge, at Santa Clarita’s Central Park.
The Mustangs will compete against 18 other teams, including talent from the NCAA, NAIA, community college, and club levels. Saturday’s slate features Cal State Bakersfield, UC Irvine, UCLA, Cal State San Marcos, Cal State Los Angeles, Point Loma Nazarene, Western New Mexico, Channel Islands Endurance Club, Tesseract Running Club, Arizona Christian, Benedictine University at Mesa, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Hope International, Providence Christian, Simpson University, University of Antelope Valley, Westmont, and Santa Ana College.
TMU’s men’s team, currently ranked fourth in the NAIA, will kick things off at 8:00 a.m. in the Men’s 8k Invitational. In 2013, UCLA’s Sergey Sushchickh set the course record by finishing the race in 25 minutes and 50.11 seconds. Last year, TMU placed 8th out of 18 teams with a total team time of 2:13:09.48 in the race. The duo of Andrew Orona and Josh Sherfey led the Mustangs with strong finishes of 27th and 32nd place in times of 26:05.88 and 26:14.74, respectively. Notably, this effort resulted in TMU claiming the highest NAIA finish of the day as the Mustangs bested both Westmont (9th) and Biola (12th).
Then, at 8:45 a.m., the fourth-ranked Lady Mustangs will compete in the Women’s 5k Invitational. Also in 2013, UCLA’s Kelsey Smith set the course record at 17:01.56. Last year, TMU great Karis Frankian finished second in a field of 226 runners, clocking a time of 17:27.05. Frankian led the Lady Mustangs to a fourth-place finish (out of 20 teams) with a collective time of 1:31:51.24.
An awards ceremony will take place around 9:30 a.m. when a plaque will be presented to the top-finishing team for each gender. Also, the top 10 individual finishers in both races will receive a commemorative t-shirt.
Commenting on Saturday’s events, TMU head coach Zach Schroeder said, “As we head into The Mustang Challenge, we need our men’s team to step up and fill a couple of key positions. I’m excited to see what they will do. We have a number of guys fully capable of filling top spots for us. As for our women, I’m looking forward to seeing Morgan Pedrick and Abigail Frankian finish in the top 10 as they are among the best in the NAIA this year. However, the real indicator of how well we will finish nationally this year is how our No. 3-5 will perform. We have a pack of girls that have continued to close the gap to our No. 1 and 2 in workouts, and I’m really hopeful we will see the same thing at The Mustang Challenge this weekend.”
For course maps, results, and more information on The Mustang Challenge, click here.