It should be easy to spot the UCSB cross country team this Halloween. They’ll be dressed as champions.
The Gauchos returned this weekend from the Big West Championship in San Luis Obispo loaded with titles and awards. Senior Eric Gans was voted Men’s Conference Runner of the Year, junior Katie Appenrodt was voted Women’s Conference Runner of the Year, and UCSB Head Coach Pete Dolan received a much deserved sixth Conference Coach of the Year award.
But the biggest jewel of the weekend was without doubt the men’s Big West Title.
“We were pretty pumped about it,” Gans said. “Winning the conference isn’t our ultimate goal but it’s always great when we do, and especially this one, since we haven’t won the Big West in a while.”
The 11th ranked men’s team put in a dominating overall team performance. Gans and senior Josh Horton finished first and second, respectively. Horton led the pack through the first four miles, after which Gans assumed the lead. Utah State’s junior Steve Prescott made a charge to the front of the pack with six hundred meters left, but was unable to fend off Horton and Gans, who passed Prescott with a great surge to the finish line.
“The crowd was great,” Horton said. “There was so many alumni, family and friends at the finish line. It gave us a really good feeling and made us more relaxed, which really helped us finish strong.”
Junior Bryon Lamorandier also ran a great race, finishing in fifth place. Junior J.T. Service’s and senior Aaron Sharp’s respective ninth- and 11th-place finishes helped to guarantee that the Gauchos would go home with the Big West Title.
“I was really excited,” Lamorandier said. “Everybody just picked each other up. We went out there and did what we always do. Everybody ran a good race.”
On the women’s side, the day belonged to Appenrodt. After a conservative first mile, Appenrodt made her surge as the pack climbed a steep and difficult hill, passing the leaders on the hill and establishng a lead she would not relinquish for the rest of the day. Appenrodt has not lost a single race to Big West competition this season.
“There was some great runners there,” Appenrodt said. “I was just hoping to run well, and everything turned out pretty well.”
Santa Barbara sophomore Cosette Smith ran perhaps her best race of the year and finished third. Sophomore Julia Gray and senior Tamar Gamliel finished 24th and 28th, respectively. Junior Tiffany De Jesus had a good outing as well, finishing 33rd. With these great individual performances, the Santa Barbara women’s team took third place at the Big West Conference Tournament.
“Cosette really gave us the push we needed,” Appenrodt said. “She really had a breakthrough, and it was her third-place finish that really helped us do as well as we did.”
However, the majority of the credit, the team believes, goes to Dolan. UCSB’s cross country team has become one of the top programs in the country as a direct result of the hard work Dolan has put in.
“He’s done a great job,” Horton said. “He’s a really good coach. If you look at the high school times for the people of the team, you’ll see that we really didn’t have very good times in high school. People who have really good times in high school go to big programs like Stanford and UCLA. But if you look at us now, we’re at a level where we can compete with big programs, and I think that’s all because of Coach Dolan.”