Women's Cross Country
    Young Trojans Win The Aztec Invitational
    Freshman Jenna Tong placed third today to help lead the Trojans to victory at the Aztec Invitational.  Tong has been the Trojans' second finisher in both races this season.
    Freshman Jenna Tong placed third today to help lead the Trojans to victory at the Aztec Invitational. Tong has been the Trojans' second finisher in both races this season.

    Sept. 15, 2012

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    Sophomore Erica Capellino won the individual title and freshman Jenna Tong took third to lead the USC women's cross country team to victory at the 68th Annual Aztec Invitational (5K) in San Diego, Calif. Today (Sept. 15). The young Trojan squad handled the tough Balboa Park course to finish with a score of 39, eight points ahead of second-place Biola. Originally the results had host San Diego State winning, but an unattached runner who placed fourth had been inadvertently counted in their team score.

    "I'm really happy with the win," said USC head cross country coach Tom Walsh. "We had five strong competitors and that helped us get the win. I'm really happy with the team effort today."

    USC's point total was its lowest in a meet since scoring 30 at the Titan Invitational at the end of the 2009 season and the team victory was USC's first since the Vanguard Invitational on Oct. 10, 2009.

    What makes it especially impressive for the Trojans is that three of their top five runners did not compete as senior co-captain Shelby Buckley did not make the trip, top freshman recruit Katerina Berdousi has not run yet and will make her debut at the Stanford Invitational in two weeks and freshman Nicole Davies, who was the Trojans' third finisher last week, was held out due to sickness.

    "I thought the team did very well considering we didn't rest this week and three of our top five runners didn't run this week," said USC cross country head coach Tom Walsh. "Once again Capellino and Tong ran big for us and they set the tone for our victory. I thought Erin Robinson and Kira Soderstrom ran well together and are getting better and Shannon Byrne is going in the right direction after being ill for 10 days."

    Capellino won the meet today with a time of 18:11.5, 16 seconds faster than she ran on the Balboa Course in finishing second last season and 10 seconds better than the 2011 winner. Capellino is the first Trojan since Sarah Cocco in 2007 to win the Aztec Invitational and her time was the fastest individual time since Cocco won with a time of 17:43 that same season. Also, the win by Capellino was the first by a USC cross country runner since Zsofia Erdelyi won the CS Northridge Invitational on Oct. 16, 2010.

    It was a second consecutive impressive race for the freshman Tong who placed third with a time of 18:33.8. Last week Tong had a time of 18:04.3 for a PR on an easier UC Irvine course and has been the Trojans' second-place finisher in her first two collegiate races.

    The next three Trojans to finish and figure in the scoring were sophomores Erin Robinson in 11th place (10th in scoring) with a time of 19:16.8, Kira Soderstrom in 12th place (11th in scoring) with a time of 19:19.7 and Shannon Byrne in 15th place (14th in scoring) with a time of 19:35.1. Robinson's time was 11 seconds faster than she ran last year on the course and Soderstrom improved by 36 seconds from last season's race.

    USC's final runners were freshman Natasha Strickland who placed 22nd (21st in scoring) with a time of 19:57.4 and senior co-captain Kelly Owen who took 38th (34th in scoring) with a time of 20:40.3.

    "This team is starting to come together right before the Stanford Invitational and I hope we can carry the momentum through Stanford and onto the Pac-12 Championships," added Walsh.