After today’s meet, everyone in the country will know the UCSB women’s cross country team. The Gauchos will compete in the NCAA Championships today at Indiana State University.

“It feels like a reward, as a coach, to take your team to nationals,” UCSB Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “The women want to show how good they are. The question is, ‘Can you compete with the best on this given day?'”

UCSB will be competitive at nationals, taking on cross country powerhouses from all over the country. Nerves fail to plague the Gauchos as they have treated the race just like any other season meet. Maintaining confidence is the most important skill for runners at nationals, and the women are positive they will sustain their poise, concentration and team spirit.

“We have a goal, and unlike last year, more confidence. That confidence takes away any fear,” senior Stephanie Rothstein said.

The meet is especially important for seniors Cosette Smith and Desiree Leek, ending their Gaucho cross country careers after nationals. This is their last opportunity to race, and both ladies hope to make the best of it.

“I can’t explain how special these girls are. It’s been an amazing experience,” Leek said. “I’ll miss it, but I love that I’m a part of them. I’m so grateful to be on this team.”

The team spirit of the Gauchos has carried the women this season – through tough loses, personal battles and victory. The women make the team a priority during and after the race. For nationals, the women’s top concern is just to run fast and stick together.

“The team helps when you’re hurting. You keep going because all you really want is to do it for each other. It makes it easier,” Smith said.

The women feel that this nationals appearance will not only make them recognizable in the running world but also to UCSB students, staff, alumni and the entire college community.

“This is proof we are national class. People already know it if they watch the sport. Now, outside the running community, people will know who we are,” Dolan said. “It’s good for everyone, excelling in athletics and academics. It really adds to our school.”