By Mason Nesbitt, Sports Information Director
As one lap turned into three and three to five, it became clear that a Mustang was going to win the 3,000-meter steeplechase Thursday at the Golden State Athletic Conference Championship. It was just a question of which one.
Finally, on the last lap at Westmont College, TMU’s Justin Harris passed teammate Alec Franco (pictured above) and pulled away to win the steeplechase conference title in 9 minutes, 45.67 seconds.
Franco, the event’s defending champion, finished five seconds back.
“I’m really thankful to God for giving me the opportunity and ability to represent Him at the conference level,” Harris said. “And I couldn’t have done it without Alec, who paced me for the whole race.”
TMU’s men’s and women’s 4×800 relays also won conference titles Thursday.
For the women, it was a striking upset – at least on paper. The Mustangs entered the day with a season best of 10:29.55. Westmont’s foursome entered with a best that was more than a minute lower.
It didn’t matter.
Kayla Gray, Rylee Bishop, Emily Bodine and Mikala Fairchild ran the event in a time of 10:19.46. Westmont finished 25 seconds later.
It was the first time Master’s won the event at GSAC finals since 2014.
“It was special because going into the race we were not expecting to be conference champs,” Fairchild said. “… But God really blessed us with the opportunity to represent Him in this race.”
Moments later, Kevin Pacheco, Tim Gutierrez, Cameron Fooks and Stephen Pacheco followed suit. The group ran an 8:06 in the 4×8, setting a new school record and winning the event at GSAC finals for the first time in program history.
As for Harris in the steeplechase, the moment was at least a season in the making. From the first time he ran the event this year, at the Oxy Distance Carnival, he improved each time he ran, and jumped, and splashed through the water portion.
Elsewhere, Abigail Frankian finished second in the women’s 10,000.
In events that held prelims on Thursday, Stephen Pacheco was the top qualifier in the 800 (1:57.39) … Jacob Ortiz qualified for Friday’s finals in the 400 with a 50.45 … Tess Thompson qualified in the 200 (26.82) … Bodine advanced to the 800 final (2:30.46) … Coach Zach Schroeder praised his team for the improvement it has shown “top to bottom.”
“It’s such a blessing to see our athlete’s hard work really paying off,” he said.