By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
The Master’s University men’s cross country team took 10,000 steps in the right direction Saturday at the Warrior Invitational in Rocklin, Calif., and set up what should be a hotly contested showdown on TMU’s home turf at the beginning of next month.
The Mustangs finished three points, and about three seconds, behind conference rival Westmont College, a vast improvement over the teams’ meeting last month.
It all sets the stage for the Golden State Athletic Conference championship in Santa Clarita’s Central Park on Nov. 3, when the Mustangs will attempt to win a ninth straight title.
“Our men are headed in the right direction,” said Master’s coach Zach Schroeder. “We’re about to peak when it counts. The GSAC championship race will be one of the best head-to-head matchups we’ve ever had.”
The drama will unfold in the same park that hosted The Master’s University XC Invitational on Sept. 29, when the Mustangs finished a disappointing seventh place, 45 points behind Westmont.
It was a far cry from last year’s GSAC championship. There TMU outlasted the Warriors by one point to claim an eighth straight title.
The 2018 home meet was a wake-up call, sophomore Wesley Methum said. The Mustangs needed to train with more focus and passion.
Saturday showed that the work is paying off.
Stephen Pacheco finished first for the Mustangs, coming in third overall in a time of 24 minutes, 44.9 seconds. Methum came in sixth in a time of 24:48.6.
“Breaking 25 minutes was a huge milestone in their racing careers,” Schroeder said.
Teammate Josh Nunez ran a new personal best (25:24.1), good for 21st place. The Mustangs finished fourth as a unit in a field highlighted by NAIA No. 3-ranked Southern Oregon and No. 4 College of Idaho.
Master’s, ranked No. 21, finished ahead of No. 8 Eastern Oregon.
Westmont was third at the meet with a collective time of 2:07:18, and Master’s was four seconds back.
Now, it’s on to conference finals.
“We’re excited to see what we can do,” Schroeder said.