With the 2005 season in full swing, the UCSB women’s cross country team is training for its most important meet of the season: the October 15th NCAA pre-nationals in Terre Haute, Indiana. Seventy teams from across the country will try to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and build momentum for the rest of the year.

“Fifty these teams think they’re the top 30 in the country,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “It’s a tester meet; you get your reputation at an event like this.”

To that end, the Gauchos are training hard, running 50 to 80 miles per week to keep themselves in top shape. Dolan said that his top four runners, senior Lauren Christman, senior Lindsay Christman, senior Stephanie Rothstein and junior Megan Lewis will probably not compete at Terre Haute, but that the rest of his team is more than ready to step up in their place, most notably senior Seanna Martin and junior Hadas Moser.

“Those four are national-class runners,” Dolan said. “But these two [Martin and Moser], they’re knocking on the door right now – I think they can prove that they’re national-class too.”

After Martin and Moser, Dolan said he expects big things from senior Leslie Alexander who is going out in style with a series of excellent races, as well as junior Bethany Nickless, a highly touted recruit out of high school who also holds the UCSB school record in the three kilometer steeplechase.

“[Nickless] had a breakout race at Stanford, the best cross country race of her life,” Dolan said. “After the way she ran at the Stanford Invitational, she is a big part of our program.”

It appears that the 5-7 spots on the squad will be filled by freshmen for the time being. Freshman Liza Hitchner earned a spot on the squad after she ran two very good races in a row, Dolan said. He is also excited about freshman Danielle Dominichelli, who was one of the top runners in the state in high school.

“The talent of Dominichelli, you could call it a mystery,” Dolan said. “She had an injury over the summer and she’s just starting to come back. But she was a state finalist in the mile, one of only two we’ve ever had in the program.”

Should things go according to plan, one problem the Gauchos may face next year is an overabundance of depth. If the squads’ top four sit out this year, next year there could be over ten very talented runners competing for seven starting spots. But of all the myriad of problems that can befall an athletic team, this is one the Gauchos would welcome.