Athletes train hard year round with the hope that, when it really counts, all the hard work will pay off.

For the UCSB women’s and men’s cross country team, this diligence has paid off.

The women finished a satisfying second place in the Big West Championships at Riverside, and the men also ran well, finishing third. Senior Katie Appenrodt again led the Gauchos, finishing in second place overall with a time of 17:56. Senior J.T. Service led the UCSB men by finishing fourth overall with a time of 24:58.

But the women were the real story.

“Our women ran great,” UCSB Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “They did what they set out to do, making up for a disappointing race two weeks ago. We peaked at the right time. I really believe that the women are a national caliber team. If we can hold this momentum, we can be the surprise team over the next couple of weeks.”

“It was a really big day for us,” Senior Elizabeth Mallon said. “It’s nice for me as a senior to finally beat UC Irvine. We hadn’t done that for five years. We knew coming in that if everyone was on, we could come back and win the conference – and we almost did it. But coach was really pleased. We ran this course earlier in the year, and everybody improved by 30 seconds this time. We’re all gonna keep focusing. We’re fired up and hopefully that will carry us through.”

Sophomore Desiree Leek finished the 5k race in fifth with a time of 18:13. Stephanie Rothstein was next, finishing in 15th place with a time of 18:39. Freshman Lauren Christman followed just behind Rothstein in 16th, and Senior Desiree DeJesus turned in a 17th place finish.

As for the men, Service was followed by Senior Brandon von Guenthner, who finished the 8k race in 16th with a time of 25:34. Junior Ramiro Guillen finished third for the Gauchos with a time 25:39, good enough for 18th in the entire field. Sophomore Jeff Gardina and freshman Scott Brandos rounded out the Gaucho top five finishing in 28th and 31st overall, respectively.

“We wanted to take a shot at running with the big teams,” Dolan said. “Sometimes when you do that, you burn out. We paid the price for getting out quick, and some of our guys faltered toward the end. We took third place, knowing that’s not the best we can do. But we just didn’t come up. I give J.T. credit; he had maybe his best race. Now we need to focus on the regional meet. The question still has to be answered, who are we? We have one last chance to show that we’re as good as we thought.”

All that is left for both the UCSB men’s and women’s squads is the NCAA West Region Championships in Stanford on November 16. It is a do or die race for the men and women, and right now, the women seem close to realizing their goal of getting to nationals.