By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
Without exception, Mikala Tockstein (pictured above) received glowing reviews Saturday for what was her final, and most impressive, conference championship performance in four years as a Mustang.
She finished first in 17 minutes, 34 seconds to claim the Golden State Athletic Conference individual title and send teammates and coaches in search of terms of commendation.
“She put an exclamation point on that race today,” said coach Zach Schroeder. “That was a superhuman performance. That has to be Mikala’s best cross country race of all time.”
Freshman Arianna Ghiorso, who finished third and who will join her recently married teammate (formerly Fairchild) at NAIA nationals later this month, was more succinct.
“Mik ran lights out,” she said.
Tockstein set a new collegiate record for TMU’s course at Central Park in Santa Clarita. And she did it in less than ideal conditions. It was warm and dry and the senior didn’t seem to care.
She did acknowledge feeling nervous before her final conference championship, a race in which Vanguard would send two contenders to the line. In the end, there was no need to worry as Tockstein finished ahead of Vanguard’s Savannah Yi by more than 14 seconds.
“I think there were a lot of emotions going on,” Tockstein said. “Thinking it was my last conference race, and with us having a young team, I wanted to leave something to them that would motivate them.”
“There’s definitely going to be a passing of the baton from Mik to Ari,” Schroeder said. “For Ari, to come out and see Mik racing so well as a senior and setting the bar very, very high, it’s really transformative to see what an All-American effort looks like. This is going to be engrained in Ari’s mind: how to compete at this level.”
Ghiorso knew the level of expectation placed on her heading into Saturday. It stemmed from a breakout performance at the Warrior Invite on Oct. 20 when she dipped below 18 minutes for the first time in her career. And still she delivered.
“She’s somebody who when big expectations are put on her, she rises and meets the challenge,” Schroeder said. “She’s a can-do athlete.”
Ghiorso finished in 18:16.5, just ahead of Vanguard’s Marissa Thompson for third place. The effort – along with the work of Kayla Gray (23rd place), Autumn Nootbaar (35th) and Priscilla Gutierrez (36th) – helped propel the Mustangs to an improbable third-place finish in what’s been a rebuilding year.
And for that, it was Tockstein’s turn to shower praise.
“Oh my goodness, I think Arianna is going to be one of the most talented female athletes that Master’s has seen,” she said.