Under the direction of Head Coach Mike Schmidt and his staff, the University of Redlands men's and women's cross country teams accelerated through the 2018 campaign with talent, determination, and achievement. After capturing a pair of fourth-place showings at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Championships, the Bulldogs continued to elevate their success through the NCAA West Regional Championships with multiple first-time accomplishments. Finally, Redlands qualified three individuals for the NCAA Division III Championships to cap off a stellar season.
The season began under pristine conditions at the Redlands Invitational on September 1. The men jumped right into the action with a second-place finish, while the women took fourth in the team standings. Individually, sophomore Tucker Cargile (Denver, CO) set the stage for his banner year by firing off a time of 19:13.5 on the 6k course for second place. Senior Joseph Esparza (Arcata, CA) also impressed in the first meet of the year with a fifth-place effort of 19:23.9. For the women, junior Maria Ramirez (Orange, CA) orchestrated a near-minute improvement from her previous time on that 4.5k course by crossing the finish line in 16:45.1 for second place. First-year Alexis Wallace (Orangevale, CA) cracked the top-25 finishers in her collegiate debut with a time of 18:22.4.
Two weeks later, Ramirez continued to roll at the UC Riverside Invitational with the fastest time among the NCAA Division III racers while breaking the school record by more than 20 seconds. She completed the 6k in 21:25.8, which was a 20-second improvement of the previous Bulldog standard held by Lauren Roberts '16. Cargile paced the Bulldog men with his 8k-time of 25:16.9, which ranked sixth among the Division III runners at the meet. He also ran the fastest time in Bulldog history since 1985, landing him fifth on the Redlands top-20 list.
On September 22, the Cal State San Bernardino Coyote Challenge provided a perfect platform for additional Bulldog success. Ramirez pushed herself to the limits with a school record in the 5k race, while Cargile turned in a first-place time in the 8k. Ramirez's career-best time of 17:48.7 placed her third at the meet, trailing only two unattached runners. Senior Ellie Ramsey (Waterbury, VT) and first-year Isabella Glenn (Seattle, WA) paced each other well throughout the race and finished with respective times of 19:10.8 and 19:12.3 to land among Redlands' top-20 list. Cargile was dominant from the start en route to his career-best time of 25:11.2, which bettered his position among the Bulldogs' all-time, 8k records. Esparza also uncorked a solid race on the unfamiliar course that resulted in a time of 25:58.0, which moved him up to 14th among the program's top-20 list.
The month of October began at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational, where the men's team excelled with a third-place result that was headlined by Esparza's fourth-place time of 25:57.0. In addition, senior Benjamin Casey (Highland Park, IL) crossed the finish line in 26:56.2, which was his fastest of the season and placed him 20th at the meet. Ramirez remained consistent with another team-leading performance for the women. She registered a time of 22:03.3 for second place, which was just 4.6 seconds out of the top spot. Ramsey and Glenn tag-teamed for another quality showing that resulted in new season-best marks of 23:41.5 and 23:44.3, respectively.
At the subsequent UCR Highlander Invitational, the Bulldogs saw multiple improvements upon career-best marks, including that of sophomore Matthew Casey (Highland Park, IL), who stopped the clock in 27:01.71. Senior Drew Kargol (Aiea, HI) and sophomore Quentin Olive-Larson (Fort Collins, CO) also unleashed the fastest times of their careers at 27:09.59 and 27:11.00, respectively. In addition, Wallace beat her previous best time by 14 seconds with a 19:38.39-mark.
This success propelled the Bulldogs into a pair of fourth-place team finishes, as highlighted by five runners among the top 20 to earn All-Conference awards, at the SCIAC Championships. As was the case throughout the season, Ramirez led the way for the Bulldogs in the women's 6k with a stellar third-place effort. With two runners on her hip as she came down the final stretch, she pulled away to break into the top three with a time of 23:29.0. Ramsey put together a 17th-place run that included a great push at the end of the race to stop the clock at 24:37.4, which marked a 38-second improvement from a year ago. For the men, Cargile made a strong kick on the final turn to reach the finish line in 26:46.7 for a 10th-place finish, while Esparza quickly followed with a 12th-place mark of 26:48.8. Finally, B. Casey also recorded an All-Conference time of 26:58.7 for 18th place.
Redlands made the trek to chilly Walla Walla, WA, for the NCAA West Regional Championship in early November. Among the highlights, five Bulldogs finished in the top 35 at the meet to capture All-Region honors, with three of those recipients automatically qualifying for the NCAA Division III Championships. Overall, the men's team registered an excellent fourth-place showing for their best finish at the regionals since 1992. Cargile paced the Bulldogs with a seventh-place time of 25:14.5 to not only collect his first All-Region honor for cross country but to punch his ticket to the national meet. Esparza fired off a strong performance that resulted in an All-Region time of 25:24.4 and a second trip to the NCAA Championships. B. Casey completed the race with a 30th-place time of 25:52.5 for a personal best and his second All-Region nod in cross country. Ramirez battled a fellow SCIAC runner to the finish line of the 6k with a seventh-place time of 22:28.4, which landed her among the All-Region honorees for the third time in as many years and sent her to the national meet. Ramsey displayed a valiant effort that resulted in the highest regional finish (31st) and the fastest time of her career (23:14.0) for her inaugural All-Region honor. In addition, Redlands gained season-best, 6k times from Glenn at 23:40.0 and sophomore Vicki Hengst (Madison, WI) at 25:35.8 for a fine showing. On the men's side, first-year Jason Hernandez (San Juan Capistrano, CA) fired off the fastest 8k of his young career at 27:10.4.
While taking on frigid and weather-beaten conditions in Winneconne, WI, the Bulldog trio left it all out on the course to represent Redlands well at the NCAA Championships. Ramirez registered the best results of the group with her time of 22:45.3 for 128th place among the top runners in the country. Cargile clocked a time of 25:49.4, while Esparza improved his previous year's time by 35 seconds for a mark of 26:03.4.
Although the departure of the graduating class is significant, the Bulldog cross country teams hold high hopes for the future of the program. With momentum and individual success on its side, Redlands sits in prime position to further elevate the standard of excellence by using this year's achievements as great motivation for the returning crew of Bulldogs.