VANCOUVER, Wash. – The University of California, Merced men’s and women’s cross country teams officially ended their season in the NAIA Cross Country National Championships Saturday afternoon at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Junior Anthony Tyler highlighted the group as he ran a program record 25:23 in the 8k race and became the first Cross Country All-American in UC Merced history. His stellar mark placed him 29th out of 328 total runners and beat the program’s previous record time, set by Tyler in 2015, by eleven seconds.

Following Tyler was freshman Blake Miller, who crossed the finish line in 26:52 and it marked the second best time any UC Merced male freshman has run in the National Championships.

“With over 330 athletes in each race, getting out well and establishing position is paramount. It takes an athlete with courage to carry out such a race plan and the men did a great job of doing so. After the first 2 kilometer loop of the course, Anthony and Blake were able to settle in and compete with their respective packs,” head coach Mike Barbee said.

Miller’s time was good enough to place 181st and he has set a great foundation for the remainder of his Bobcat career.

On the women’s side, junior Karina Martinez and senior Sara Zaldana ran at a similar pace and placed 270th and 275th respectively out of 338 competitors.

Saturday’s meet was their first race on the national stage and Martinez recorded a time of 20:32. Zaldana was just four seconds behind Martinez and ran her third fastest time to put an end to her Bobcat career.

“The women got caught behind a lot of runners early in the race and they were forced to bide their time for opportunities to move around other racers once the opportunity presented itself,” Barbee said.  “On the third and last lap Sara really saw some daylight and moved around a lot of runners, closing in on Karina to finish only four seconds behind her which is the closest margin between the two all season.”

Overall, the 2017 season was one of the best to date and the Bobcats solid strides gives Barbee a lot of hope going into next year.

“I’m really grateful for the hard work and dedication so many of the athletes displayed this fall. It needs to serve as a building block for the program’s future,” Barbee said. “Anthony’s accomplishment is fantastic but this is a team sport and we need to strive to qualify a team for the NAIA Championships as soon as next fall.”

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