Empire Runners Left Mark On College Cross Country Season

Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:

More than a dozen of the Empire’s recent prep cross country top performers contributed great efforts to NCAA teams this season.

Jacque Taylor

Last to compete were Hugh Dowdy and Reesey Byers, the Empire’s top boys’ runners a year ago. The pair stayed close at the USA Cross Country Championships, held in San Diego earlier this month. Dowdy, from Petaluma high and running for the University of Colorado, finished 34th in the race. Byers, from Santa Rosa high and now with Sacramento State, was 39th just eight seconds behind.

Other highlights on the college cross country season for former Empire runners:

*Capping a fine four years at UC Davis, former Maria Carrillo harrier Calvin Thigpen earned All-West Region honors with a 20th place at the NCAA West Region cross country championships in Springfield, Ore. The Aggies finished ninth out of 25 teams. Thigpen took third at The Big West Conference finals this season – his third campaign as one of the team’s top runners. At Maria Carrillo, Thigpen was an All-Empire first team selection, runner up in both the NBL and NCS finals to earn a spot in the state Division 3 championships.

*Continuing to improve in his second year at Loyola Marymount, former Petaluma record setter Sterling Lockert was the Lions’ third scoring runner at the NCAA West Region meet, where the team finished 20th. Lockert was the number two runner as the Lions finished fourth in the West Coast Conference championships – his second top 15 finish at the meet. The four time All-Empire selection, including twice runner of the year, Lockert won the SCL finals all four years at Petaluma and the NCS meet twice, in Division 2 and 3. A four time state finals participant, Lockert finished eighth in Division 3 as a senior.

*Just 20 seconds behind Lockert at the NCAA West Region race was Byers, the number three runner for Sacramento State that day. At the Big Sky Conference Championships two weeks earlier, Byers was the Hornets top runner and 19th overall as Sacramento State finished fourth, the team’s best performance ever in the league finals. The Empire runner of the year two years ago at Santa Rosa high, Byers won the NBL and NCS Division 2 finals and finished 9th at state.

*Other former Empire prep standouts competing for NCAA men’s teams: Dowdy raced in some meets as a freshman for a deep Colorado team that finished second at the NCAA Mountain Regional and 15th in the NCAA finals; Andrew Zellman, Ukiah, ran his first year at the U.S. Naval Academy; Brian King, Cardinal Newman, is a first year runner for Georgetown; Rory McLeod, Santa Rosa, is a sophomore running for Arizona; Brian Cole, St. Helena, is a senior at Williams College.

On the women’s side:

*Casa Grande great Jacque Taylor was one of North Carolina’s top runners, including seventh for the Tar Heels in the team’s 14th place finish at the NCAA Division I championships in Terre Haute, Ind. Taylor was the Tar Heels’ fifth runner in the team’s second place finish at the Southeast Regional Championships. A three-time All-Empire Runner of the Year, Taylor won the California prep Division 2 cross country title as a senior, the best of her four state meets. She won the NCS Division 2 title twice and was runner up twice.

*Leanne Fogg, in her third year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, helped pace the Mustangs to an eighth place finish at the NCAA West Region finals. Fogg, from Maria Carrillo, was the Mustangs’ number three runner in the race after finishing fifth as Cal Poly San Luis Obispo took second at the Big West championships. A four time, All-Empire selection, Fogg was runner of the year, NBL champion and NCS Division 2 runner up twice.

*At the NCAA Division II finals, Shannon Rich, from Rancho Cotate, helped lead Chico State to a fifth place finish. Rich ran her best race of the year at Louisville, recording the Wildcats’ second fastest time to earn All-America honors. Rich was named All-Empire first team in cross country at Rancho Cotate and ran in the California state finals three times.

*Isabel Andrade and Dominique Ratto completed first years at the college level. Andrade, from Petaluma high, runs for Nebraska. Ratto, out of Casa Grande, runs for Sacramento State.