The #17 UCSB women’s cross country team found success once again. Santa Barbara placed 17th out of 31 teams at the NCAA National Championship, improving on last year’s 29th place finish. Colorado claimed the women’s title.

Sticking to what works worked for UCSB. The Gauchos were hesitant to disrupt their training and competition strategies all season. When it came to nationals, Santa Barbara continued with the same routine. As usual, junior Lauren Christman finished first for the Gauchos, 49th in the team-scoring positions, with a time of 21:42. She finished in the highest position of any Gaucho runner at both regionals and nationals this season, which may be the finest individual season of any UCSB runner.

Junior Stephanie Rothstein followed in the 55th team spot with 21:46. Junior Lindsay Christman took the 82nd scoring spot, a huge improvement of 2003’s 149th place. Senior Cosette Smith ended her Gaucho cross country career with a 106th finish. Smith started out behind but managed to move up almost 100 places for her finish.

Sophomore Megan Lewis rounded out the Gaucho top five at 118th in her second NCAA appearance and will likely be a strong competitor next year, returning as a top-four runner.

Senior Desiree Leek also concluded her collegiate cross country career, taking 168th after a disappointing race at 23:00. Leek usually finished high among the Gauchos but has experienced a tough season.

Finally, sophomore Hadas Moser took 188th in her nationals debut. Like Lewis, Moser will be returning as a strong runner for two more years and provides a hopeful future for the team.

This was the Gauchos’ second NCAA National Championship appearance and the women hope to make it a permanent part of their season. Next year, the women will return five of their top seven and have a large group of developing runners who will hopefully aid in a third national appearance in 2005.