The UCSB men’s and women’s cross country teams hope to keep up the momentum this weekend at the West Region Championships in Fresno. Both teams have been training for the rolling hills course on the bluffs north of campus and feel physically and mentally prepared for the competition.
The #16 women will try for a top-three spot, hopefully moving into a top-10 national ranking and a bid to the NCAA National Championships. The men want to keep up the positive energy of the Big West Championships after a disappointing pre-nationals finish earlier this season. The men have set a realistic goal of finishing within fifth to eighth overall and are in a position to beat rival UCLA.
“We want to come from behind. It’s a 10K race and we’re a higher-mileage team than most, so we should do well,” junior Alex Cardiasmenos said.
Seven Gaucho men will compete on Saturday in a pack of 150 runners from the region. Sophomores Chris Ashley and Mike Chavez will run one and two for the men after an impressive, historic finish at the Big West Championships. Cardiasmenos and senior Jeff Gardina bring their experience to the squad. Junior transfer JD Krawczyk is expected to do well, as are junior Ben Berkowitz and sophomore Stewart Harwell. Senior Scott Brandos has secured his place as alternate for the team.
“We had good momentum at conference and we want to continue that momentum,” Cardiasmenos said. “We’d like to finish the season on a strong note.”
The women have not changed anything but the speed of their workouts, and they enter the race with the same strategy they have been using all season. The women will try to secure third place, but a second-place finish is not out of reach. #1 Stanford is expected to take first, and Arizona State is the favorite for second but will have to put up a fight to fend off the Gauchos.
“We’re going to do what we’ve been doing because it’s been working,” senior Stephanie Rothstein said. “We’re going to protect third, but if second comes to us, it comes to us.”
Lauren and Lindsay Christman will run one and two for the Gauchos, and following closely behind will be the usual pack of seniors in Rothstein, Cosette Smith and Desiree Leek. Sophomores Megan Lewis and Hadas Moser will round out the top seven, and junior Seanna Martin will provide backup as the team alternate.
More important than regionals are nationals, which the women look to next weekend. A third-place finish will secure the women’s invitation depending on the results of other teams. However, the women remain confident they will make a national appearance.
“We’ll race as fast as we all can. I feel we are prepared as a team – emotionally, physically and psychologically,” Rothstein said. “If we put it all together, a top-10 rank will come to us.”