The Oregon rains will not stop the UCSB men’s and women’s cross country teams this weekend.
On Saturday, the Gauchos will travel to Portland, Ore. to compete in the West Regional Championship. The race will take place at Blue Lake Park, with a 10K race scheduled at 11 a.m. for the men and a 6K event at 12:15 p.m. for the women. Despite the predicted dreary weather, the teams are confident they will perform well.
“We’ve done all the work, so now we just have to put it all together,” sophomore Lauren Christman said. “We’re confident we can do well.”
The UCSB women, currently ranked fourth in the region, face tough competition from #1 Stanford, #2 Arizona State and #3 UCLA. A first or second place finish in the race translates to an automatic invitation to the NCAA Championship. A high finish may allow the UCSB women to enter the nationals through the at-large bid, special thanks to its first place finish at Pre-Nationals. UCSB single runners also have an opportunity to qualify individually for the NCAA Championship. The top four runners who are not members of a qualifying team qualify for nationals.
Assistant Coach Jeff Jacobs looks for strong finishes from the top three runners – sophomore Stephanie Rothstein, sophomore Lauren Christman and junior Cosette Smith.
“All have chances to qualify individually. Stephanie Rothstein has the best chance. All could potentially run in the top 25. [Desiree] Leek also has a shot at it,” Jacobs said. “We feel good with our top four, so the big thing is a strong fifth finish.”
The men, ranked 10th regionally, will also face stiff competition from #1 Stanford and #2 Cal Poly. The Cardinal will mostly likely dominate the race and have two-time defending champion Donald Sage to lead the pack. As junior Jeff Gardina said, “Stanford has a monopoly.” Yet, the race is a 10K instead of the usual 8K, which may throw some runners off.
“One advantage we have is we do more miles [in practice] than other teams like UCLA and ASU. [This helps] since this is a 10K, not an 8K,” Gardina said.
Jacobs believes that Gardina, senior Chris White and fifth-year senior Pablo Gallegos could possibly finish in the top 25. He expects “big races from all the guys.” Jacobs also said that Gardina has the best chance among the Gauchos to qualify individually for nationals.
The greatest obstacle for all the teams racing, except the Northwestern teams, will be the cold rain combined with the grass course, creating a mushy terrain. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-50s as the high with rainstorms throughout the day. UCSB does have the experience of racing in similar weather conditions at Notre Dame earlier this season.
“I personally thrive in the rain. I love it,” Gardina said. “For the rest of the team, as long as they don’t let it get to them, then we’ll be fine. If we just go out there and take it, we’ll be fine.”
Both teams show excitement for the big race ahead and are prepared to give it their best shot. As Rothstein said, “We’re all peaking at this time. There are no excuses.”