As College of San Mateo’s third cross country head coach in as many years, Matt Layten is looking to the school’s football team for inspiration.
“I personally look up to the football program here,” Layten said. “There’s a reputation with football. Kids are going to come here; they’re going to move on to a four-year (school). And I want to build that.”
CSM’s football team is a transfer machine. After last season alone, the Bulldogs saw 19 football players move on to the four-year level. Cross country, however, is an entirely different beast.
While NCAA programs offer track and field scholarships, cross-country scholarships are non-existent. Hence the reason top-flight cross-country athletes are prone to competing in both.
CSM hasn’t produced a cross-country transfer in several years. Following last season, Mirka Uhlirova was offered a full track scholarship from University of the Pacific, but opted to return home to her native Czech Republic. Layten, however, sees promise in this year’s CSM cross-country team, especially on the women’s side.
“We want to be a championship program,” Layten said. “We aren’t going to do that this year but how do we build to that level?”
Layten knows the Division I ranks, having previously coached at his alma mater Cal Poly and then at San Jose State when the Spartans reinstated track and field in 2014. He has also coached at local high schools as an assistant at Hillsdale and South San Francisco, and as a head coach at Carlmont in 2013.
The top runners of this year’s CSM cross-country team got a glimpse of Division I competition Saturday competing in the Stanford Invitational. Freshman Wailani Martin had the best showing. With CSM the only community college program competing in the event, Martin finished near the bottom of the pack — 149th place out of 153 competitors — but shattered her personal record with a time of 28 minutes, 22.7 seconds on the six-kilometer Stanford Golf Course.
“She crushed her high school time pretty much — so she had a good week,” Layten said.
A 2015 graduate of Sacred Heart Cathedral, Martin has also impressed Layten with her ambitions to run at the next level.
“She’s the one that’s always looking up to see what the Division I teams are doing and asking: ‘What can I do to get there?’” Layten said.
CSM freshman Shannon Smith also ran in the women’s race at the Stanford Invitational, taking 152nd place with a time of 29:25.8. CSM sophomore Garek Lee was the only Bulldog to compete in the men’s race, finishing 176th out of 177 with a time of 29:38.8.
With full teams on both the men’s and women’s side, CSM will unveil its full 15-runner roster Friday at the Coast Conference opener at Hartnell College. The meet was originally scheduled for Toro Park in Salinas but was relocated due to the Soberanes fire.
Layten had a hand in recruiting a majority of this year’s roster, he said. And he has learned to be creative. Former Hillsdale girls’ wrestler Renata Lopez-Romero has made the transition to cross country with the Bulldogs. Beyond that, Layten is optimistic about the women’s team’s chances as early as this season.
“I think the women have a great chance of making Nor Cals,” Layten said. “So I’m looking forward to seeing them in the first conference meet — seeing how they stack up.”