The Master’s University men’s and women’s cross country teams altered their team vision for this season. Before, the vision was about “living up to Christianity through the sport,” according to head coach Zach Schroeder. But after deciding that was a little too vague, Schroeder and the team narrowed the focus. “We just want to follow the master through obedience to his word in the sport,” said Schroeder. “That’s our guiding point for what we want to set out to accomplish.” A new focus on the team’s beliefs brought a renewed drive to capitalize on last season’s momentum on both the men’s and women’s sides.
Last season, the men’s team won its seventh consecutive Golden State Athletic Conference title and placed fifth at the 2016 NAIA Men’s Cross Country National Championships. Schroeder was also named the GSAC’s Coach of the Year for the seventh straight year. Andrew Orona (Hart High grad), Skyler Mikesell and Alex Franco were All-GSAC honorees and return this year along with Stephen Pancheco and Tim Gutierrez (Hart). Wesley Methum – who qualified for the CIF state meet in the 3,200 meter run as a senior at Rincon Valley Christian in Santa Rosa – is a freshman poised to make an impact. “I think he’s going to be a dynamic force for us the next four years,” Schroeder said. The women’s team, which is also coached by Schroeder, is eager to surpass a second-place conference finish that’s held them captive for the past four years and secure an elusive first-place this season. The women are also coming off a national championship appearance, where they recorded the program’s second-best time at the event: one hour, 33 minutes, 4.26 seconds. Abigail Frankian, an NAIA All-American from Saugus, Mikala Fairchild (Hart) and Emma Bahr (Saugus) are all locals who will be valuable in the chase for first. Incoming freshman Emily Bodine won league championships in 2016 and 2017 with Dixon High of Northern California. Priscilla Gutierrez of Hart High also joins the team. These two stacked teams could do what has never been done in TMU history: win dual conference titles. “Both men and women are jelling well together,” Schroeder said. “There’s a lot of chemistry just within the men’s team and women’s team that I think it’s going to help in some great racing this year.” The men’s and women’s seasons begin with the Mark Covert Classic in Fullerton on Sept. 2.