After grinding out to fourth and seventh place finishes at last Saturday’s Stanford Invitational, the UCSB men’s and women’s cross country teams have three weeks to train and assess themselves before they lace up their sneakers for the Pre-NCAA Meet in Terre Haute.

For all of the athletes, now is the time to pick up the pace.

For senior Gaucho Katie Appenrodt, meets, including the Stanford Invitational, are important; but larger goals remain in the back of her mind.

“It’s all about the four big meets,” Appenrodt said. “We looked at Stanford as a good opportunity for practice, and we are happy that we had a good performance. But our goal is to perform well at the big meets. We want to win the Big West Conference Championship. We want to make Nationals. I made it individually last year, but we really want to make it as a team this year.”

The men’s squad is hungry to come back strong from a disappointing overall performance at Stanford. Despite reaching Nationals last year as a group, the team understands that this is a new year and a new team.

“Screw last year,” sophomore Scott Brandos said. “Last year means nothing. This team has a lot of new guys on it. We have to work as hard as we did last year to get back [to Nationals]. I think we have the potential to be as good or even better than we were last year.”

There is an emphasis on teamwork at this stage in the season.

“At Stanford, we were working a lot on pack running,” Brandos said. “That’s what we work on. It’s a lot easier to run fast when everyone can feed off the energy of the Gaucho pack.”

Competing against one another is further motivation for the runners.

“Cross country is a team sport,” Appenrodt said. “But we’re also trying to do the best for ourselves. Hopefully, through competing against each other, we can be constantly improving and be well prepared for the big meets.”

As a team leader, Appenrodt’s pace and performance inspires her teammates.

The Pre-NCAA Meet on Oct. 19 is important for the Gauchos because they can earn points that could aid them in their quest to return to Terre Haute on Nov. 25 for the NCAA Championship. The squad must first go through the Big West Conference and the NCAA West Region Championships at Stanford on Nov. 16. For the runners that do not qualify for the Terre Haute meet, the grueling season continues at the Cal Poly Invite on Oct. 19.