The UCSB women’s cross country team experienced the special feeling of seeing its goals met Saturday at the NCAA West Regional Championships.
The women took third place while the men finished a respectable 10th.
“It was exactly what we wanted to do … secure third place,” senior Stephanie Rothstein said. “This season has been like dominos, one after another, and this was in our series of things to do.”
Powerhouses Stanford and Arizona State University took first and second for both the men and the women. However, the Gaucho women finished close behind ASU and well ahead of Big West rival University of Idaho. Rothstein and junior Lauren Christman managed to move up from the 40s after the first mile for top-15 finishes. Christman finished an impressive eighth overall with a time of 20:48, followed by Rothstein in 12th. Christman now holds the record for the highest women’s finish at Regionals in UCSB history.
“We have an even pace race plan and use the come-from-behind method,” Rothstein said. “We knew we could beat those girls ahead of us.”
Junior Lindsay Christman and seniors Desiree Leek and Cosette Smith took 23rd, 24th and 25th, respectively, giving the Gauchos much-needed points. The top five Gauchos all earned All-Western Region honors, another first in Santa Barbara history. Sophomores Megan Lewis (43rd) and Hadas Moser (75th) also ran well for their first Regionals appearance.
The women will most likely head to the NCAA National Championships next Monday, but the final announcement will not occur until later this week. The team will continue to train and view Nationals simply as the next step. At the beginning of the season, the team hoped to be in the top 20 in the country, but now the women are thinking top 10.
The men were ranked 10th in the region going into the meet but had hoped to finish higher. The Gauchos felt they could have run a more aggressive first half of the race and passed teams who finished ahead of them like Washington State and Arizona.
“After the race we felt it was just average; we wanted more,” junior Alex Cardiasmenos said. “We weren’t happy.”
Sophomores Chris Ashley and Mike Chavez finished one and two for the Gauchos, 35th and 39th overall. Cardiasmenos took 57th and junior JD Krawcyzk placed 63rd. Regionals veteran senior Jeff Gardina crossed the line at 69th, followed closely by sophomore Stu Harwell (70th) and junior Ben Berkowitz (75th).
The meet marked the end of Gardina’s Gaucho cross country career, although he will be running track in the spring. Gardina faced a difficult season due to injury, unlike his 2003 season, in which he was UCSB’s sole runner at Nationals.
“We would have loved for him to run like last year, but you have to go with what you have,” Cardiasmenos said. “But, his presence was important on the team. He’s an excellent runner who went to Nationals and he will be missed.”
The men look ahead to the next cross country season, which will return nine of the top 10 runners and regain key redshirts. This year was a learning experience that the team will use to its advantage in the future.