The University of La Verne men's cross country enjoyed an historic outing at the 2011 SCIAC Championships in placing four competitors among the Top 20 finishers at the meet held Saturday at Prado Regional Park in Chino.
Overall, the Leopards placed third in the team competition with 59 points to finish behind league champion Occidental (47) and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (53). La Verne placed ahead of nationally-ranked Pomona-Pitzer (67), which took fourth at the meet.
Leading the way was junior Alex Forbess, who punctuated his fine 2011 campaign with an outstanding performance to finish second overall. During the latter portion of the race, Forbess and Occidental senior Eric Kleinsasser, the three-time defending SCIAC Champion, separated from the pack. Kleinsasser (25:37.45) prevailed for an unprecended fourth conference title, but was pushed by Forbess, who turned in a time of 25:45.66 to earn the highest-ever La Verne placing at a SCIAC Championship meet.
Sophomore AJ Licon, who placed third at the 2010 SCIAC Championships, also shined at this year's meet for the Leos in placing fourth overall (26:21.31) to record his second consecutive Top 5 individual finish.
La Verne also enjoyed a breakout performance from Chris Gutierrez, who stayed among the leaders throughout the race and was rewarded with a 12th place overall finish with a time of 26:55.71. Junior Matt Sustayta also enjoyed a strong effort on the day with a 16th place showing as he completed the eight-kilometer course in 27:10.43.
Head coach Mike Atwood was very encouraged by his team's performance and hoped to build momentum from the confererence championship meet into future competitions. "Having four guys finishing in the Top 20, earning All-Conference is a big deal for us," he said. "It's a sign that we really are progressing forward."
La Verne will next compete at the 2011 West Region Championships held November 12 at the Pomona-Pitzer course in Claremont.