Westmont College added some spring to its step for today’s Golden State Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships by putting two league awards into its trophy case.
Freshmen Caleb Mettler and Anneline Breytenbach were named GSAC Athletes of the Month for October on the eve of today’s meet in Rocklin. Performances during the month of September were also considered in the selection of the monthly men’s and women’s cross country awards.
Mettler led the Warriors to a team victory in his collegiate debut, placing second at The Master’s Invitational Race 2 on Sept. 26. He finished the 8K in a time of 27:30.2.
He improved that time to 26:32.5 while finishing fourth at the William Jessup Warrior Invitational on Oct. 24.
“Caleb Mettler has shown an outstanding racing acumen as he has taken to the longer collegiate 8K race,” Warrior coach Russell Smelley said. “He is positive in attitude and a good student of the sport in how he observes elements that can make him and his teammates better.”
He was on pace for a top-four finish at the Westmont Tri-Meet on Oct. 9, but the leading group of four runners took a wrong turn that took them out of contention. He does know today’s GSAC Championships course, which was the site the William Jessup meet two weeks ago.
“The course is challenging and requires focus and determination,” Smelley said. “It was good to see the course to gauge the effort required to race equitably at GSAC.”
Both his men’s and women’s teams are hopeful of improving on their rankings of No. 3 in the GSAC’s preseason poll.
Breytenbach, a late admit to Westmont after originally enrolling at UCLA, ran unattached at Westmont’s Tri-Meet while undergoing eligibility clearance by the NAIA. The former multi-sport star from Atascadero High was the unofficial winner of the Warriors’ 4K race.
She followed that up as the official winner of the Jessup meet, edging Mariah Hildebrandt of The Masters by just .01 of a second with a 5K time of 19:16.3.
“Anneline is a pleasant walk-on surprise,” Smelley said. “She is a competitor at heart, so racing is an extension of her personality.
“She has embraced the team and the training and made herself at home with the Warriors.”
Smelley has added several other impact freshmen to his roster this season.
On the women’s team, Kacie Kwan of Hawaii Baptist High School won both The Masters Invitational and Westmont’s own 4K, finishing just ahead of sophomore teammate Madden Hundley in a time of 16:02.
Hundley won All-GSAC honors last year after placing sixth in the league meet, and she was the lone runner to represent Westmont at the NAIA National Championships. She was the Warriors’ second finisher at Jessup’s meet, placing seventh.
Freshmen Gretchen Scherrel of Ventura’s Foothill Tech and Jenae McInnes of Seattle’s Kings High have also been running among Westmont’s leaders this fall.
The Westmont men’s team is undergoing a youth movement, as well. Mettler was followed in sixth place at the Jessup meet by fellow freshman Mitch Groff of El Toro High. Groff was also fourth at The Masters Invitational.
Two other freshmen, Ben Reasner from Pacifica Christian High and Nik Day from Simi Valley’s Hillcrest Christian, have been running among the leading Warriors. Reasoner was third at the Westmont Tri-Meet while Day placed 11th.
Sophomore Adam King, the former Condor League champion from Santa Barbara’s Providence School, won Westmont’s Tri-Meet — a 6K race which he finished in 20:28. He was also fifth at The Masters and eighth at Jessup.
Senior Thaddeus Kowalkik Jr. is the Warriors’ top returning finisher from last year’s GSAC Championships, having placed 20th. Another senior, Chris Hanessian, had a strong season debut by placing second at the Westmont Tri-Meet and seventh at The Masters.
Also back are sophomores Garrett Miller, John Baker, Damien Ureste and Mark Szekrenyi.