The Notre Dame Invitational on Friday was supposed to be a meet that would prepare the UCSB men’s and women’s cross country teams for the NCAA Division I Pre-National Meet, and that is exactly what happened.

It was the first real test of the season for both squads in which they faced some of the best teams in the country. The Gauchos also encountered some unfamiliar weather conditions in South Bend, Ind., including rain, chilly weather in the 40’s and a wet and muddy course.

The UCSB men placed sixth in the 8K course with 213 points. Notre Dame captured the team title with 76 points overall. Rival Berkeley finished 10th with 253 points. Junior Gavin Thompson of Eastern Michigan won the race with a time of 24:06.

“We didn’t do as well as we wanted, but we definitely learned from it,” junior Jeff Gardina said. “We’re capable of so much more, if we’re going to go to nationals we need our guys to do a lot better at pre-nationals.”

Gardina posted another solid performance placing ninth (24:46) overall. Senior Chris White took the 25th (25:14) spot. Sophomore Art Avitia placed 34th (25:25), senior David Monico came in 66th (25:48) and senior Pablo Gallegos rounded out the top five by placing 83rd (25:55). The sixth and seventh runners for Santa Barbara were sophomores Alex Cardiasmenos, placing 119th (26:21), and junior Scott McConville finished 156th (27:08).

The elite competition and big race environment at Notre Dame were a learning experience for the Gauchos.

“It was a shock, we’ve run some smaller races this year where not everyone is going as fast as you,” Gardina said. “In this race you had 200 people going as fast as you.”

The UCSB women placed seventh in the 5K course with 193 points. Notre Dame took the team title with 73 points and Berkeley finished ninth with 239 points. Sophomore Molly Huddle of Notre Dame took the individual title with a time of 17:12.

The women’s squad encountered some bad luck when its top runner, junior Desiree Leek, had some complications with asthma before the race. Despite not feeling well, she completed the race.

Sophomore Lauren Christman gave the Gauchos another solid performance, placing 19th (17:58) overall. Junior Cosette Smith finished 23rd (18:01) and not far behind came sophomore Stephanie Rothstein in 24th (18:03) place.

“It was important for us to get the experience,” Rothstein said. “It was 40 degrees out there, and it was pouring rain. We’ve never raced in conditions like that. If you can get through that, you can get through anything.”

Senior Desiree DeJesus came in 57th (18:41) while sophomore Lindsay Christman placed 74th (18:56). Leek came in 78th (18:58), and senior Tiffany Armel finished 82nd (19:02).

“There is definitely room for improvement,” Leek said. “Now we have a better idea of what it is going to take for pre-nationals.”

The NCAA Division I Pre-National Meet will be at University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Oct. 18.