FRESNO — Saturday dawned cool and crisp at beautiful Woodward Park, where Santa Barbara City College’s Sage Holter placed fourth at the CCCAA State Championships for cross country.
Temperatures at race time hovered in the low to mid 50s on the clear and sunny day, making for perfect racing conditions.
Twenty-one teams in addition to a select number of individuals converged on the park for the CCCAA State Championships for cross country. The 155 runner field represented community college athletes who had qualified two weeks previously from their respective regional championship. SBCC’s Sage Holter qualified out of the south region by placing third in Bakersfield, setting her up as a favorite for a top five finish at Saturday’s championships in the women’s 5K run in Fresno.
At the gun, Sage got a strong start storming across the grass field emerging on the road in a strong third place behind the two pre-race favorites. The remainder of the race would be two separate races — two runners dueling for the win and everyone else.
Sage set the pace for the rest of the field through the opening mile, opening a 10-meter lead at the mile passing by in a quick 5:40. Knowing the crux of the Woodward Park course was the hilly second mile, Sage continued to push the pace passing the 2-mile in 11:41 and doubling her lead on the chase pack. Sage continued to run strongly over the final mile holding her lead on all behind her, except for Hannah Brown of Mt. SAC. Brown, who had placed just ahead of Sage at regionals, finally pulled even with Sage with just over 400m remaining in the race.
Sage didn’t have a response for Brown’s strong kick and had to settle for a fourth place finish in the end. Her time of 18:16.4 was just off her time from two weeks earlier, but Saturday’s run was on a more challenging course and marked the second fastest time by a SBCC runner in the last 15 years, just 2 seconds behind Cecilia Instebo’s 18:14 from 2012.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Sage’s effort today” said Coach Scott Fickerson after the race. “She went out and ran an aggressive race and challenged anyone to go with her. Aside from the two leaders, only Hannah (Brown) from Mt SAC was able to match her pace.”
Fickerson added, “This experience of running at a higher intensity than she has ever run will serve her so well in the future as a runner. I’ve no doubt she will get better and better at closing it out and then look out!”
Hannah Hartwell of College of the Redwoods won the race in 17:20.9 while Mt. SAC took the team title with 83 points over San Diego Mesa College (138 points) and Glendale College (159 points).
This report was filed by Scott Pickerson, the head cross country coach at Santa Barbara City College.