REDLANDS, Calif. (Sept. 5, 2015) – Both the Caltech men's and women's cross country teams started the 2015 season with significant improvement on last year, chopping over two minutes off their average times at the Redlands Invitational on Saturday morning.
The women's team, led by freshmen Melissa Gutierrez (Pico Rivera, Calif./El Rancho) and Michelle Marasigan (Elk Grove Village, Ill. / James B. Conant), improved from a team average of 22:37 last season to record a 20:00, while the men moved up from 23:01 to 20:51, paced by senior Jared Forte (Lake Elsinore, Calif. / Elsinore) and freshman Rohan Choudhury (Cupertino, Calif. / Monta Vista).
The winding course between the University of Redlands quad and Sylvan Park stretched 4,500 meters for the women and 6,000 meters for the men – three-quarters of the usual 6k and 8k distances, respectively.
"We wanted to start conservatively and close strong," Head Coach Ben Raphelson said. "Our season will be defined by the trajectory we follow from here. We're aiming to be at our best in October and November; this was an encouraging starting point, but our goal is to get better with each race."
Gutierrez, Marasigan and sophomore Caroline Atyeo (Parkland, Fla. / Marjory Stoneman Douglas) all beat out the 2014 team's No. 2 runner last season, with Gutierrez finishing just 17 seconds off graduated 6k record holder Stephanie Reynolds' 18:02 last year. Freshman Robin Brown (Potomac, Md. / Richard Montgomery) completed the field for Caltech, running in the first cross country race of her life.
"Melissa and Michelle ran intelligent races and competed with poise to record very strong finishes," Raphelson said. "It was great to see them competing in a Caltech uniform for the first time. This was a very promising start for Caroline too after being unable to run this race last year due to injury. The result she produced today was one of her best races at Caltech."
Forte (19:44) and Choudhury (19:46) blew the doors off in the men's race, running Caltech's two fastest times on record at the course. Forte's run was particularly notable as it was 50 seconds faster than his time as a rookie, when he clocked the fifth-fastest 8k time in program history.
Four of the other five returners improved on last year's performances by over a minute, led by a whopping three-minute drop from sophomore Mason MacDougall (La Mirada, Calif. / La Mirada). Seniors Elliot Simon (Alexandria, Va. / Thomas Jefferson) and Mark Lorden (Brookline, N.H. / Hollis-Brookline) shaved 1:44 and 1:15 off their times, while sophomore John McDaniel (Weston, Mass. / The Rivers School) finished 1:23 faster. Freshman Rohan Doshi (West Windsor, N.J. / West Windsor-Plainsboro North) also impressed in his first collegiate race, coming in not far behind the leading Beavers at 20:18.
"We felt that if we could all finish the race strong, we'd take a lot of confidence away from the experience heading into our first 8k in two weeks," Raphelson said. "Jared, the Rohans and Joey [Hong] all executed that plan particularly well and were coming on very strong in the end."
Raphelson and the Beavers will return to action on Saturday, Sept. 19 at the Mustang Challenege, hosted by the Masters College at Central Park in Santa Clarita. The women will step up to a 5k while the men vault to the full 8k.