Santa Clarita, Calif.- The Royals hit the ground running for the first time this season at The Master's XC Invitational, which marks the first cross country race in the state of California since the beginning of COVID-19. 

The meet looked a little different than usual to ensure the utmost safety of all athletes and coaches. As opposed to racing every GSAC school at once, both the men's and women's teams were split into two races each. 

Both Royal squads ran in the second race of their respective meets, competing against Arizona Christian, San Diego Christian, and Westmont.

On the men's side "The race went off very tactical and slow and so the HIU top three men were in charge of the pace" HIU head coach Dan Whittington said.  

Seniors Anthony Ramos (SR/Rialto, CA) and Andrew Valle (SR/Whittier, CA) were followed closely behind Sophomore Joseph Clemons (SO/Val Verde, CA).  The HIU trio was surrounded by a pack of Westmont men and two Arizona Christian men.  As the race continued, the front pack began to thin out and Andrew Valle took charge of the race on the last three loops.  

Andrew Valle won the race with a time of 27:28.1, followed by Anthony Ramos in 8th with a time of 28:23.2 and Joseph Clemons in 10th place with a time of 28:41.0.  

"Unfortunately, the men did not have five men race in order to have a team score.  Overall, this was a great beginning to the 2020 season" said Whittington.  

On the women's side, Freshman Aurora Couto (FR/Winchester, CA) was impressive in her first race as a Royal. Couto ran an aggressive first mile placing herself in the top six from the start.  

As the race developed the HIU women continued to move up and pass other runners.  Aurora climbed all the way up to 3rd place in her first collegiate race with a time of 21:19.1.  

Sofia Gutierrez was the second HIU runner to finish in 15th place with a time of 23:37.3, followed by Tabitha Abbey (SR/Fullerton, CA) (16th) with a time of 23:40.7 and Sophia Ruesga (JR/Fullerton, CA)  (23rd ) with a time of 28:36.9.

The women only raced four runners as well, due to their #1 runner Daphne Salomon (SR/Chino, CA) being out due to a sprained ankle, and thus did not have a team score.  

"We are hoping she is ready to compete in the next race on Friday, October 9th at Westmont," said Whittington.

On Friday, the GSAC Cross Country Preseason Polls were released, with the Men's team predicted to finish fifth in the conference and the Women's team predicted to finished fourth in the conference this season. 

The Royals next meet is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 9 at 4:30 pm, a meet hosted by Westmont. The Four-Way Invite will include Westmont, Vanguard, Hope International, and William Jessup.