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Cross Country - Sat, Sep. 9, 2017 - posted by Seth Preuss
Joe Tobin (left) and Daphne Salomon finished first for HIU cross country (photos courtesy of Dan Whittington)
Joe Tobin (left) and Daphne Salomon finished first for HIU cross country (photos courtesy of Dan Whittington)

FULLERTON, CA – Hope International opened the 2017 cross country season with a meet in its own backyard at Ted Craig Regional Park. The Royals did not field enough runners to place as a team for the men or the women, but saw some solid individual performances nonetheless at the Biola Invitational.

Coach Dan Whittington ran his two freshmen in their first collegiate race at the Invitational on the women's side and was pleased with the result. Daphne Salomon crossed the finish line first for HIU at 19:36.67 and was the 38th runner through the line. Fellow freshman Tabitha Abbey crossed the line at 19:58.09 and just missed finishing in the top third of the pack as the 53rd overall runner in a field of 155.

"Daphne was our top girl. I thought they [both Daphne and Tabitha] ran fantastic second half races - Tabitha moved up probably 10 or 15 spots over the last mile," Coach Whittington said after the race wrapped up. "With injury issues we probably won't have five scorers until late October or even conference, but I'm still very proud of the two freshman and how tough they ran today."

On the men's side, Joe Tobin set a new personal record (PR) and finished in the Top 20 of a 130-runner field – Tobin crossed the finish line at 26:15.27 and was the 17th runner through the finish line. Tobin was the first NAIA runner to finish in a field dominated by NCAA competition. Additionally, Tobin's new PR is good enough for fourth all-time in the history of HIU men's cross country and is nearly 25 seconds better than his previous personal best.

Anthony Ramos crossed the finish line at 27:11.01 as the 40th overall finisher to lock in his first collegiate personal best, and Ray Barela was next for HIU, making his freshman debut with a time of 27:47.57. Andrew Valle was the last HIU runner to finish at 28:17.51 and was stride for stride with a Westmont runner until the finish, ending mere hundredths of a second behind in 74th.

Three of HIU's four male runners finished in the top half of the field and the Royals managed to finish ahead of several Westmont runners in the field, a sign of steady improvement from last year to this. Coach Whittington said afterwards that "I'm really happy with the direction of the men's program, we should have five scorers soon."

He further complimented his team's performance by remarking "Joe was our first guy and he ran a personal best - our goal today was to go out conservative and really push the second half. I think he did a great job accomplishing that goal today. The other three freshmen it was their first 8 kilometers race ever. I think they were just trying to get used to running that long."

The Royals will be back on the race course next weekend at the UC Riverside Invitational on the Highlanders' Agricultural Operations course – be sure to catch the recap on our website afterwards.

M - Cross Country