It was 45 degrees outside, not counting windchill, on Saturday as the UCSB men’s and #15 women’s cross country teams competed in the Pre-NCAA meet, held at Indiana State University. The women finished eighth out of the 36 teams at the race and the men took a disheartening 28th in a field of 35 teams.
The top seven women’s teams were all higher ranked teams than the Gauchos except for #17 Michigan State. UCSB still has a shot at Nationals, thanks to its third place finish at the Roy Griak Invitational in late September.
“The women’s performance was excellent,” UCSB Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “We backed up the Griak performance. It’s the best we’ve ever done and shows we’re competitive at a national quality meet.”
Junior Lauren Christman finished first for UCSB and 14th overall. Christman, a solid runner with a chance at making All-American at Nationals, started off strong and moved ahead from around the 40th spot.
“Lauren was amazing. She just kept moving up,” Dolan said. “She’s a smooth and powerful runner that is ready to run with the top 25 in the country.”
Out of 226 runners, the remaining six Gauchos concluded the race close together. Senior Desiree Leek and junior Stephanie Rothstein took 55th and 57th, respectively, after moving up from the middle of the pack at around the 100th spot. Another pair of blue and gold, junior Lindsay Christman and senior Cosette Smith finished 71st and 73rd, respectively. Sophomore Megan Lewis finished 97th in her first Pre-National appearance, and fellow sophomore Hadas Moser rounded out the seven at 119th.
“We could have been more aggressive,” Dolan said. “We ran a little conservative. The women raced hard, but didn’t take any chances.”
For the men, a surprise finish was a dream but not a reality. Sophomore team leaders Chris Ashley and Mike Chavez finished 85th and 87th, respectively, with satisfying times but disappointing placings. The rest of the team had “races to forget,” as Dolan described them, scattered among 242 competitors.
“It was a traumatically poor performance. I couldn’t image a performance like that,” Dolan said. “I have an inexperienced team, and I should have been more cautious and raced with a more conservative plan.”
The team now hopes to regroup and put all of its energy into the conference championships. The men do not have a shot at Nationals, but a respectable finish at the Big West Championship is possible.
“I think we can perform well at conference,” junior Alex Cardiasmenos said. “We’re still a strong team. A second or third place finish is a reasonable goal; we just need to regroup and focus on the future.”
Next weekend, the Gauchos will compete in the Titan Invitational, then will be ready to race in their final three big races of the season: the Big West Championships, West Region Championships and the National Championships.