The invitations finally came for the #13 UCSB men’s cross country team, which will be running where no Gaucho squad has when it travels to Greenville, South Carolina for the NCAA National Championships.
Along with the men’s team, junior Katie Appenrodt of the women’s team was also selected Monday to compete individually at the National Championships. Their appearances will mark the first time either a team or individual from Santa Barbara has been invited to the Big Dance.
“Everybody was pretty happy and pretty excited,” senior Josh Horton said. “When we finished our run today, there was this rainbow outside, and we found out we were going to Nationals.”
After finishing fifth with a lackluster performance this past Saturday at the NCAA Western Regionals, the Gauchos were not sure if they would receive an invitation. The coaching staff estimated they had an 85 percent chance of being selected, so when the call came on Monday, it provoked not just joy, but a little relief as well.
“We were all expecting to get to Nationals,” senior Eric Gans said. “But it was nice to see it in print and to get the call. It was a big relief.”
Horton put on another wonderful performance at the NCAA Western Regionals, producing the highest finish ever by an individual Gaucho runner by taking seventh place against very tough competition. Gans also ran well, receiving All-Western Region honors for his 19th-place finish.
Junior Brandon von Guenthner placed 26th, junior Bryon Lamorandier finished 40th and junior J.T. Service finished 44th.
Senior Aaron Sharp, the team’s seventh runner, finished 50th. Sophomore Chris White, whose 34th place finish secured the fifth spot for UCSB at the Regionals, however, ran the clutch race of the day.
“We didn’t run our greatest race,” Horton said. “But Chris White ran the best race he’s run all year though. Without him, I don’t know if we’d be going to Nationals.”
The women’s team ran hard but finished 11th at the NCAA Western Regionals. A bright spot for the Gauchos, however, was the marvelous race ran by Appenrodt, who finished 10th against a tremendous group competitors. Appenrodt is the first woman to be invited to the NCAA National Championships from Santa Barbara.
The second fastest time for the Gauchos went to sophomore Cosette Smith, who finished 45th. Fifth-year senior Tamar Gamliel took 69th, sophomore Julia Gray finished 95th and sophomore Vanessa Hernandez placed 98th. Rounding out the UCSB runners were sisters junior Tiffany De Jesus and junior Desiree De Jesus finishing 99th and 138th respectively.
“We did alright,” Appenrodt said. “It was a bit of a disappointment, but we’re looking forward to next year. My finish really gave me a lot of confidence. I want to use it as a building block for next year.”
The NCAA National Championships will take place on Nov. 19 in Greenville, South Carolina. Although the competition will be intense, the Gauchos remain confident in their ability to run a good race. Horton and Gans will challenge for All-American honors, while Appenrodt seems poised for greatness.
“Getting to Nationals has been our goal for three years,” senior Steve Rider said. “It’s always been sort of a ‘Wouldn’t that be nice’ kind of thing for us, but now it’s a reality. We’re there, so now we just have to do it.”