Athletes look at the end of the season as the time in which they must either make the necessary tuneups in their game or face the consequences of going home until next year. For the UCSB men’s and women’s cross-country teams, the end of the season is now.
The Gauchos head into this Saturday’s Big West Championship meet in Riverside looking to finally cash in and realize their great potential. It has been a tough year for Santa Barbara, a team held down by freak injuries and sub-par performances from talented runners nearly all season. But there is still a chance for redemption in the biggest race of the year.
“This weekend, we’re just going after it,” sophomore Scott Brandos said. “We know we’re capable of much better things. We’ve had some bad days and some unfortunate injuries hold us back this year, but we’re still a talented team that is capable of turning it around at the Big West Championships.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams run its nine best athletes, with the top five runners scoring points that will contribute to the team championship. With a good race, the Gauchos position themselves well for the NCAA West Region Championships on November 16th at Stanford. But UCSB knows not to look ahead too far ahead.
“We’re not thinking about regionals,” Brandos said. “We know that in the position we’re in, we just have to take this thing one race at a time.”
“We’re a dark-horse team right now,” senior Bryon Lamorandier said. “We just need to focus on this week. We haven’t run up to our potential, and this is one of our last opportunities. We’re shooting to come out and surprise some people.”
In other news, the Gaucho B-squads had a successful outing at the Titan Invitational in Fullerton on Friday. In the final race of the season for these athletes, the men’s squad finished third out of seven teams, while the women finished fourth out of eight teams.
Freshman Alex Cardiasmenos led the Gauchos, finishing the 8k race in 10th place overall with a time of 26:09. Sophomore Scott McConville was second on the squad, finishing 14th with a time of 26:30. Freshmen Ben Berkowitz, Justin Coburn and Jason Boyce finished 15th, 18th and 21st respectively.
Senior Desiree De Jesus led the women by finishing the 5k race in a time of 18:47, good enough for fifth place. She was followed by freshman Laura Zung in 10th, sophomore Diana Quinones in 17th and freshman Leslie Alexander in 38th.
“I had my best race of the year,” McConville said. “I left with a little bit of pride. All in all, it was good closure for our B-squad. Now we get to cheer on our big boys. Hopefully they can make nationals so we can support them.”
For the Gauchos, the ultimate goal of winning nationals starts this Saturday.