Josh Sherfey, Conference champion
The Master’s University men’s cross country team entered Saturday’s Golden State Athletic Conference Championship ranked No. 12 in the NAIA and third in the GSAC behind Westmont (No. 8 NAIA, No. 2 GSAC), and Biola (No. 5 NAIA, No. 1 GSAC).
After reaching a historic feat of claiming six-straight GSAC titles, the Mustangs undoubtedly toed the line on Saturday with targets on their backs.
Unfazed by their competitor’s lofty rankings, the Mustangs stuck to TMU head coach Zach Schroeder’s pack-running strategy and stampeded their way to an unprecedented seventh-straight GSAC title.
Based on his team’s performance, Schroeder was pegged as the GSAC’s Coach of the Year for the seventh straight season.
The Mustangs’ first-place team finish was backed by a collective team time of 2:05:12. Westmont finished in second at 2:07:00, while Biola earned a third-place finish at 2:07:19.
Individually, the Mustangs claimed the top three competitors as Joshua Sherfey was named the conference champion after finishing the race with a final time of 24:45.3. TMU newcomer Alec Franco placed second overall at 24:52.8, while Andrew Orona earned a third-place finish at 24:54.4.
Skyler Mikesell finished in 10th-place at 25:14.8, Richard Buckelew placed 13th at 25:23.8, and Michael Sciarra earned a 15th-place finish at 25:32.9.
Based on their stellar performances, Sherfey, Franco, Orona, Mikesell, Buckelew, and Sciarra earned All-GSAC honors. Sherfey has now earned All-GSAC honors for four consecutive years (2013-16), while Buckelew has earned all-conference honors for three-straight years (2014-16). Repeating their all-conference honors were Orona (’14 & ’16) and Mikesell (’15 & ’16).
Additionally, TMU’s top five competitors (Sherfey, Franco, Orona, Mikesell, and Buckelew) ran new personal records on Saturday.
Elsewhere, Stephen Pacheco clocked a final time of 25:47.6 and earned an 18th-place finish, Joshua Nunez placed 21st at 26:00.2, and Tim Gutierrez finished in 25th-place at 26:16.9.
Finally, TMU’s Andrew Dolan (43) and Gareth Matson (45) finished with times of 27:40.5 and 27:48.4, respectively.
“The team has worked so hard all season long, and we thank the Lord for blessing them with such incredible performances today,” commented TMU head coach Zach Schroeder. “In Philippians 1:3 Paul writes, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…” That verse sums up how I feel about my team. It am thankful beyond words to have the privilege of working with a group of athletes that truly love the Lord and seek to honor Him through their sport.”
Another notable fact about Saturday’s race was that the Mustangs’ team time of 2:05:12 set a new record for the Rocklin-based Springview Park course. On October 22, No. 3 nationally ranked Southern Oregon competed on the same course at the 2016 Warrior Invitational where they set the former course record with a team time of 2:05:47.
Needless to say, TMU’s performance on Saturday bodes well for the upcoming NAIA National Championship. On November 19, the Mustangs will compete at the 61st Annual Men’s Cross Country National Championships at the North Farm Cross Country Course in Elsah, Ill. Last season, TMU finished ninth out of a field of 36 teams with a collective time of 2:09:43.1