The University of Redlands cross country program elevated its standard of success with significant individual and team accomplishments during an exciting 2017 campaign. While delivering some of the fastest times in school history, the Bulldogs qualified a pair of runners to the NCAA Division III Championships off a successful showing at the NCAA West Regional Championships. This achievement was a direct result of the Bulldog women's third-place showing and the Maroon and Gray men's fifth-place effort at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Championships. Furthermore, multiple representatives hauled in awards to illustrate the program's achievements as a whole.
The season began on home turf, as the Bulldogs hosted the Redlands Invitational on a lovely day in September. The men finished second with five runners among the top 25. Junior Joseph Esparza (Arcata, CA) made his Redlands debut as a first-year transfer a memorable one by completing the 6k in 19:45.67 for fourth place. Junior Benjamin Casey (Highland Park, IL) quickly followed in fifth with a time of 19:50.64. Sophomore Maria Ramirez (Orange, CA) paced the third-place women with her sixth-place performance in 17:39.20 on the 4500-meter course. Six additional Bulldogs completed the race among the top 25, as highlighted by first-year Desiree Cadena's (San Jose, CA) 10th-place time of 17:53.76 in her first collegiate competition. Senior Kaylee Jorgensen (Claremont, CA) ran the final Redlands Invitational of her four-year career with a 14th-place time of 18:10.19 for a 33-second improvement from last season.
Two weeks later, the Redlands cross country teams took on top competition at the UC Riverside Invitational. Ramirez and Esparza continued to shine for the Maroon and Gray, as they finished as the top Bulldog in their respective races. Ramirez completed the 5k course in 18:37.8, which ranks as fourth in school history, while Esparza crossed the finish line of the 8k in 26:28.9. Cadena and Jorgensen also orchestrated outstanding marks that now respectively rank 10th (18:58.6) and 11th (19:00.7) in program history.
The Bulldogs capped off a solid month of September with excellent results at the SCIAC Multi-Dual Meet. The women came in third with a 6-2 mark, as the men earned fourth place at 5-3. With consistency and skill, Ramirez registered a sixth-place time of 21:57.24 in the 6k. Jorgensen headlined a quality trio that ran the race in fewer than 24 minutes, as she posted a time of 23:28.17. Sophomore Carly Veasy (Camas, WA) closely followed in 23:49.22, while Cadena completed the course in 23:50.42. The men's fourth-place showing was a program-best since 2010. Senior Sean Unger (Carlsbad, CA) left it all on the 8k course in his final campaign by recording his best finish at this particular meet. With a time of 27:26.88, he came in 27th place.
Redlands opened the month of October with quality times at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational in nearby Claremont. The Bulldog women finished third out of 13 teams, with Ramirez remaining at the front of the pack for the Maroon and Gray. She took fourth place with a time of 22:13.87, as Jorgensen followed in 23:50.95. On the men's course, Benjamin Casey led the Maroon and Gray to a sixth-place performance with his career-best time of 26:27.13. First-year Trevor Brouelette (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) posted the fastest, 8k mark of his young career at 27:23.14.
This momentum propelled the teams into a quality outing at the SCIAC Championships two weeks later. While leading the Bulldogs' charge for the fifth-consecutive meet, Ramirez ran a sixth-place time of 23:25.58 to earn All-SCIAC First-Team honors. Jorgensen garnered Second-Team accolades by crossing the finish line 17th place at 24:25.09. Junior Ellie Ramsey (Waterbury, VT) upped the ante on her results with a top-30 time of 25:15.66. Once again, the Bulldog men were led by the dynamic duo of Esparza and Benjamin Casey, each of whom collected All-SCIAC Second-Team honors with respective finishes of 15th and 16th, respectively. In addition, first-year Henry Tucker Cargile (Denver, CO) posted a solid effort with his 35th-place time of 27:26.16.
Redlands continued to cruise at the NCAA West Regional Championships, earning solid times at the familiar course at nearby Pomona-Pitzer. As a team, the women earned a ninth-place showing, while the Redlands men took 11th. Ramirez and Esparza each reeled in All-Region results to highlight the Bulldogs' outstanding meet. Ramirez uncorked a fourth-place time of 21:50.07, which was just one second off the Redlands school record. Jorgensen fired off a time of 23:16.83, as Ramsey ran a career-best time of 24:05.84. Veasy clocked a 24:25.53, while senior Emily Guthormsen left it all on the course in her final meet with a time of 24:37.92. Esparza paced the Redlands men with his All-Region time of 26:12.34, which also landed him 17th all-time in program history. Cargile offered a solid mark of 26:52.02, while Benjamin Casey completed the race in 27:39.82. Finally, Brouelette ran his inaugural regional meet in 27:51.21.
Although the teams' season was over with the regionals, individual acclaim remained for Ramirez and Esparza, who represented the Maroon and Gray at the NCAA Division III Championships in Elsah, IL. In their first-ever national appearances, Ramirez ran the 6k in 21:58.30, which placed her 66th out of 279 runners, while Esparza capped off his inaugural season at Redlands with an 8k time of 26:38.29. This was the first season under Head Coach Mike Schmidt that Redlands qualified at least one men's and one women's runner for the the NCAA Championships.
Later in the year, it was announced that each Redlands cross country team garnered Team All-Academic recognition from the U.S. Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). In addition, Esparza and Ramirez represented the Maroon and Gray among the USTFCCCA Individual All-Academic selections. Both of these honors a are based on GPA and regional results.
With the departure of a quality senior class, the Bulldogs must fill the void with new and rising talent. Under Head Coach Mike Schmidt's leadership, this task brings lofty expectations of Redlands' continued climb through the SCIAC and beyond.