2011 Summary: Redlands Cross Country Builds for the Future with Individual Success
Amidst individual accolades and overall improvement, the University of Redlands cross country program gained from the experience of its senior class while cultivating the Bulldogs for future success.
In early September, the season kicked off with the Redlands Invitational, in which freshman Della Lyle (Buffalo, WY) debuted her talents as a true contender for the women's team. She completed the shorter 4500m course in 17:47.32 for seventh place as the sole top-10 representative from a school other than Biola University.
For the men, senior Duncan Ashby (Goleta, CA) posted a solid time of 20:37 37 to kick off his fourth year with the Bulldogs, finishing as Redlands' top runner in 19th overall on the 6k course. Newcomer Chris Bolt (Reno, NV) backed him with a 26th-place time of 20:52.91.
Two weeks later, the Bulldogs headed to the UC Riverside Invitational, with the men competing on an 8k course and the women racing the 5k. In just her second collegiate meet, Lyle landed second on Redlands' all-time list for the shorter, cross-country race with a time of 18:16.7. Senior standout Emily Canales (Redlands, CA) crossed the finish line just 33 seconds behind her at 18:49.0, which placed her fifth all-time at Redlands.
This lethal combination continued to make noise at the Stanford Invitational on September 24 as Lyle and Canales provided solid performances during their first 6k race of the year. Lyle uncorked a time of 22:39, which placed her second all-time at Redlands, and Canales provided a stellar showing with her then-career-best time of 23:07 for the third-fastest Bulldog mark.
In addition, sophomore Vanessa Anchondo (Oceanside, CA) quickly followed with a then-career-best mark of 25:35, which was nearly six minutes faster than her strongest performance of 2010.
After impressive improvements during the latter half of last season, sophomore Derik Harrison (Centennial, CO) continued that trend at the Stanford meet by turning in a time of 29:00.8, which was just 31 seconds off of his previous season-best.
During the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational, sophomore Courtney Mera (Redlands, CA) added to the excitement by shaving off 37 seconds from her first-ever 6K race that took place one week earlier, completing the nearby course in 23:57.9. Although Anchondo finished fourth among the Redlands harriers, she recorded yet another career-best showing with her time of 24:40.2. With this improvement, she approached the seven-minute range for how much faster she was running in 2011 compared to just a year ago.
For the men, Ashby continued his team-leading performances with his time of 26.38.5 for 40th overall. With a time of 27:56.6, Bolt finished second among the Bulldogs for the fourth time in his rookie career. Both runners improved upon their then-career-best marks for the 8K-course, erasing approximately 10 and two seconds, respectively.
Finally, after weeks of preparation, the Bulldogs embarked upon the first of only two Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) meets of the season, facing off against each team in the annual multi-dual event at La Mirada. The Bulldog women posted a 2-5 record, earning wins over Caltech and the University of La Verne, while the Maroon and Gray men succumbed to every conference foe but continued to improve on an individual level. Canales and Ashby served as the frontrunners for Redlands, taking ninth (22:52.52) and 19th (27:51.20), respectively.
The Maroon and Gray wrapped up the regular season at the SCIAC Championships on October 29 at Prado Park. The Bulldog women gained a pair of All-SCIAC performances en route to capturing fifth place as a team, while the men finished one point shy of taking seventh in the standings. For the women, Canales and Lyle highlighted the day by taking third and fourth, respectively. By completing the 6K course among the top 10 at the race, Canales notched her second All-SCIAC First-Team honor with her time of 23:38.54. Lyle quickly followed with her inaugural All-Conference award of her young career, clocking in at 23:47.27 as Redlands' second runner.
The men relied on Ashby to once again serve as their top finisher with a time of 27:36.47. Harrison posted the only other sub-30 minute time, completing the 8K course in 29:57.04.
Canales highlighted the Bulldogs' showing at the 2011 NCAA West Regional Cross Country meet by finishing 12th overall to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on November 19. She posted another career-best time at 22:07.9 on the 6K course at nearby Pomona-Pitzer Colleges, collecting an All-Region nod by completing the race among the top 35.
Mera stepped up as the squad's No. 2 runner, finishing with a time of 24:11.6 for 79th overall. She shaved off 96 seconds from her mark at the SCIAC Championships.
As a team, the women finished 17th in the regional standings.
The men's team also finished 17th as Ashby put the stamp on his final collegiate race with a personal-best time of 26:32.3 for an 8K course. He finished 36th overall, which was one position away from gaining All-Region honors.
Bolt fired off a time of 28:45.4 for Redlands' second-fastest performance of the day. Harrison came in a few seconds later at 29:18.5 for a 39-second improvement over his last race during the SCIAC Championships.
The program was proudly represented by Canales during the 2011 NCAA Championships at Lake Breeze Golf Course in Oshkosh, WI. While uncorking her final career-best time of 22:03.76 on the 6K course, she finished 64th overall in the field of nearly 300 of the NCAA Division III's best runners while moving up to second all-time on the Redlands list.
Although the program loses a talented and dedicated senior class, the Bulldogs return a sizeable group that holds promise for the future. With Head Coach Mike Schmidt leading the effort, the Redlands cross country program strives to revisit the upper echelon of the conference while focusing on individual accomplishments and overall growth.