Women's Cross Country
    USC Opens Cross Country Season By Placing Second At Mark Covert Classic
    Erica Capellino (left) finished fifth and Katerina Berdousi third to lead USC today at the Mark Covert Classic.
    Erica Capellino (left) finished fifth and Katerina Berdousi third to lead USC today at the Mark Covert Classic.
    Aug. 30, 2014

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    The USC women's cross country team kicked off the 2014 season by placing second at the 5K Mark Covert Classic hosted by CS Fullerton at Carbon Canyon Park in Brea, Calif. today (Aug. 30). Junior Katerina Berdousi placed third and senior Erica Capellino was fifth to lead the way for the Trojans on a slightly revamped course which resulted in slower times than past seasons.

    USC was the only team with eight runners in the top 28 and finished with 51 points, while the meet winner Loyola Marymount had six runners finish in the top 30 including the first and second-place runners to win with 32 points. San Diego State was a close third with 55 points.

    "Overall I believe we had a very successful day," said USC cross country coach David Freeman. "I think the team as a whole is moving in the right direction. Last year at this meet we only had three women in the top 30 and in this race this year we had eight in the top 28, so that is indicative of how much they worked through the past year and the summertime. Now we are capitalizing on it and as we move forward we will try and advance the program into a true distance team and compete at the Pac-12s."

    Berdousi, running in her first cross country race since her freshman season, was USC's top runner and third overall with a time of 18:16.7. Berdousi and Capellino battled with LMU's top three runners for much of the race, with Capellino finishing fifth with a time of 18:20.3. Redshirt sophomore Lauren Grego, back from a stress fracture which cut short her 2013 campaign, ran a strong race and was the Trojans' third finisher and seventh overall with a time of 18:33.6, less than two seconds off her PR set at the same meet a year ago.

    Senior Kira Soderstrom was the next USC finisher and 17th overall with a time of 18:51.6, nearly a minute and a half faster than she ran at the 2013 Mark Covert Classic. USC's final scoring runner was freshman middle-distance specialist Madison Ricks who placed 22nd with a time of 19:09.4. Right behind her in 23rd place was junior Jenna Tong with a time of 19:10.4. USC's seventh finisher was another freshman, as Amber Bragdon took 27th with a time of 19:26.6. Right behind her in 28th was junior Nicole Davies with a time of 19:29.2.

    USC's final two runners were junior Natasha Strickland who placed 64th with a time of 20:14.1 and junior Alyssa Reardon in 89th with a time of 20:49.7.

    When asked about the positives from today, coach Freeman said, "I would say Erica coming back from injury which caused her to miss the track season, and she came back strong. Obviously, Katerina back in the fold for cross country, so she's looking good too. Lauren is back in form. Kira actually dropped nearly two minutes from this time last year, so she came into the school year fitter than last year. Madison, one of our newcomers, was our fifth runner and to be honest with you she is a true middle distance runner. This was just her second or third 5K ever, so it is pretty unique that she can step in and contribute right away. Jenna is always a contributor. She is one of the people we will look to as we move forward in the season. Our other youngster Amber stepped up too. Nicole Davies, I'm really impressed with her. She's been having setbacks and she's coming back with vengeance. It was pretty exciting to see eight Trojans in the top 30."

    The USC cross country team will next be competing at the Mustang Challenge in Santa Clarita, Calif. on Sept. 20.