It’s official. The UCSB women’s cross country team is heading to the NCAA Championships.
Both the women’s and men’s teams competed last Saturday in the West Regional Championships in Portland, Ore. The women finished fifth overall, and the men’s team landed an 11th place finish.
The women’s fifth place finish earned them an at-large bid for nationals to be held Nov. 24 in Waterloo, Iowa. Sophomores Stephanie Rothstein and Lauren Christman were the lead Gauchos during the race, finishing 23rd and 24th, respectively. Both women received All-Region honors for their top 25 finishes.
“Stephanie, this wasn’t her best race, but the caliber of the competition along with the stakes took her by surprise. As a sophomore, this was a good experience. She was almost ready for it, but it took the edge off her race,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “Lauren is so consistent now, there was no question when the gun went off that she would do well.”
Junior team captain Cosette Smith rounded out the usual top three at 29th, even though she did not feel well going into the race. Dolan described Smith as “the heart of the Gauchos,” giving it all she had.
Sophomore Lindsay Christman finished regionals with her best race of her college career, coming in at 44th overall and the fourth best UCSB runner.
“Lindsay stepped up after problems this year. She really came through for us,” Dolan said.
This is the first time the UCSB women’s team has ever made it to the NCAA Championships, and the first time the team has ever been nationally ranked. The women have been rated 23rd in the nation since their first place finish at Pre-Nationals earlier this season. The team is extremely excited about their landmark season and the young team will not lose any runners to graduation this year.
“The girls are so dedicated, we’ll only improve,” Dolan said.
The men’s race on Saturday was not as successful. In one word, Dolan summed up his thoughts on the race as “disappointing.” He expected “big races from all the guys,” and unfortunately the guys did not have it.
Junior Jeff Gardina was the only bright spot for the Gauchos. His 11th place finish secured him a slot at the NCAA Championships as an individual qualifier. He earned All-Region honors and now holds a place in the record books for the men’s second highest individual finish at the regional meet.
“Jeff made up for everything,” Dolan said. “He ran smart, looked good and had killer instinct the last few miles. He’s what cross country is all about.”
A bout of bad luck hit senior Chris White in the past few races. After missing the Big West Championships because of food poisoning, White finished a unsatisfactory 43rd overall. In the first mile, White had to stop to readjust his shoe after it was kicked off by another runner. He spent much of the race playing catch-up. Fifth-year senior David Monico finished as the third Gaucho after a tough season, crossing the line at 74th. This was the final cross country race for White and Monico, as well as fifth-year senior Pablo Gallegos, who finished 98th.
The team looks forward to cheering on Gardina at nationals next Monday.
“Through everything up there [in Oregon], none of the guys gave up. Unfortunately, they didn’t do better, but I’m still proud,” Dolan said.