Freshmen Berenice Penaloza and David Thor are Eastern’s top finishers
The Eastern Washington University men’s and women’s cross country teams kicked off the season Saturday (Sept. 3) at the Clash of the Inland Northwest held at Mead High School in Spokane, Wash., with both teams finishing fifth overall.
The women, led by redshirt freshman and team captain Berenice Penaloza, scored 124 points. The men scored 131 points with newcomer David Thor claiming the top spot for the Eagles.
Other teams competing at the meet were Gonzaga, Washington State, Idaho and Whitworth. The Gonzaga women and Washington State men each placed first, with the Bulldog women scoring 22 points and the Cougar men edging out Gonzaga by a score of 28 to 30. Washington State’s Caroline Austin won the women’s 4,000-meter race in a time of 14:09.6, while unattached runner Andrew Kimpel had a time of 18:25 on the men’s 6,000-meter course.
“I thought we ran well. We definitely have something to build off of, which is nice,” said Eastern head coach Chris Zeller.
Penaloza made her Eastern debut with a time of 15:33.9 to place 19th overall. Finishing behind her for the Eagles was Danie Moon (31st, 15:56.9), Jessi Johnson (45th, 16:33.1), Acacia Smith (46th, 16:41.5), Monica Jaenicke (52nd, 16:58.2), Lauren Brewington (57th, 17:29.2), and Brittney Swanson (58th, 17:38.6).
“Berenice went out strong, hung on well, and was able to finish strong -- that’s a good sign for her,” Zeller said, “Danie also showed that she put in a solid summer and was able to run a great opening race.”
Zeller was also pleased with the performances of Johnson and Smith, the other runners in the top five. He made note of Jaenicke, who ran her first cross country race in nearly two years. “Monica made it all the way through, she’s been through a lot and it was great to see her do that,” Zeller said.
Thor also had a strong debut, placing 22nd with a time of 19:23.9. Coming in behind him was Nathan Fall (50th, 20:55.1), Quin Olivas (57th, 22:35.9), Nick Olsson (59th, 28:11) and Steven Warner (60th, 28:18.4). Olsson and Warner, both sprinters/hurdlers at Eastern, were late additions to the roster after Zeller decided to hold junior Jordan Curnutt and freshman Isaac Seward out of the meet due to injuries.
“David ran really solid and moved up consistently throughout the race,” Zeller said. “I thought he did very well for his first race.”
Seward sat out the meet with an ankle sprain but is expected to be back for the next meet. Curnutt, however, is nursing a knee injury and could be out for an extensive time.
Regardless of placing, Zeller felt that there were definitely some success stories to take away from the meet.
“Overall, we have a lot of work to do, but there are definitely seeds o build off of,” Zeller said.
Eastern will return to action Sept.15 in Seattle, Wash. at the Sundodger Invitational, hosted by the University of Washington.