Although Darcy Arreola's cross-country future was burning brightly after finishing fifth in Saturday's NCAA Division II championships at Oak Meadow Country Club in Evansville, Ind., it might be dimmed until the 1989 season because of her commitment to the upcoming track season.
Arreola, a Cal State Northridge sophomore, will try to qualify for the 1988 Olympic team in either the 1,500 or 3,000 meters next July, and that might cause her to sit out the 1988 cross-country campaign.
"I don't want her getting injured or sick next season because she came back too quickly from track," CSUN Coach Don Strametz said. "So we might redshirt her next season. It's going to be a long hard season for her. She'll be racing until the middle of July."
Arreola, who qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 1,500 meters with a time of 4 minutes, 15.35 seconds, won't make a decision until after the track season.
"I'm just going to wait and see what happens," Arreola said. "I'm going to see how I feel physically after track."
Although the soft-spoken Arreola has not set any goals for track based on times, her coach does it for her.
"I was thinking 4:08 before the other day," Strametz said. "Now I'm thinking she can run much faster. We both felt she moved up a notch the other day. She's ready to move to another echelon now."
Even if Arreola redshirts next season, the Lady Matadors should be strong. Tina Cheney was the only senior on this year's team, which placed fifth in Division II, and freshman Debra Binnall and sophomore Gina Jaurequi both redshirted.
"We should be strong again," Strametz said. "We had two talented runners who sat out this season so we don't have to have a great recruiting season."
The same thing cannot be said about the men's team, which placed eighth in Division II. Will James, Craig Ingram and Dane Costley, the Matadors' second, fifth and sixth runners, are all seniors. Strametz does not have a supply of redshirt athletes to replace them.
"We're definitely going to need help in that department," Strametz said. "But we've got a lot of people interested."
One in particular, apparently, although Strametz won't disclose the runner's identity until he is signed.
"We've got a chance to sign our biggest recruit yet if things go right," Strametz said.
Benny Cruz of Cal State Los Angeles, who placed 30th, was one of the biggest disappointments at the Division II meet. Cruz, a former standout at Valley College and Burbank High, won the West regional championships in Seattle two weeks earlier and was expected to place in the top 10 in Evansville.
Cruz ran with the leaders for the first 2 1/2 miles before fading.
"It looked to me like he just gave up," Cal Poly San Luis Obispo women's Coach Lance Harter said. "When the Kenyans made their first big move, he got discouraged."
Charles Cheruiyot and Peter Rono, Kenya natives from Mount St. Mary's, placed first and second.
Cruz denied giving up when the Kenyan's sped up, however, saying he hadn't gotten enough rest and was bothered by the cold weather. It was 33 degrees at race time.
"I just had a bad day physically," he said. "I didn't sleep very well during the nights preceding the race and I felt it Saturday."
CSLA men's Coach John Tansley added that the number of fast runners might have contributed to Cruz's downfall.
"Realistically I told him that he couldn't beat the two Kenyans and that he shouldn't try to stay with them if they made a big move," he said. "And I don't think that's what bothered him. I think the fact that there were another 15 guys around him did. He didn't expect that many guys to be with him."
Cruz, who is expected to compete in The Athletics Congress cross-country championships in New York on Saturday, was philosophical about his performance.
"I'm disappointed because I expected to run well," he said. "I expected to be much higher. But you live and learn and just keep going."
George Castro of CSUN was the fourth-fastest freshman at the Division II meet.
Castro, a graduate of Ramona High in San Diego, placed 26th with a time of 31:45 over the 10,000-meter course. Rono of Mount St. Mary's (second in 30:43), Peter Fleming of Lock Haven (13th in 31:20) and Jimmy Hearld of Southeast Missouri State (17th in 31:27) were the top three freshmen.
Runners from the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. dominated the Division II women's race.
Three of the top five runners, Sylvia Mosqueda of CSLA (first), Gladees Prieur of Cal Poly SLO (fourth), Arreola of CSUN (fifth), and eight of the top 21 were from the CCAA.
Cal Poly, CSLA and CSUN placed first, second and fifth in the team competition. It was the sixth consecutive title for Cal Poly.
The CCAA was well-represented in the men's race, though not as dominant. CSLA, Cal Poly SLO, CSUN and UC Riverside placed 6th, 7th, 8th and 12th, respectively. Former Kennedy High standout Hebert Saravia of UC Riverside was 18th.