Winning was not in the cards for the UCSB men’s cross country team this weekend, as they turned in an underwhelming performance at the NCAA Pre-Nationa meet in Indiana.
“There were a few mistakes that we made in the race,” senior Scott McConville said. “It was just flat out not getting it done”
Racing against some of the top cross country programs in the nation, the Gauchos finished 20th in a field of 33 teams – their best Pre-Nationals finish since 2001. While they did not earn any at-large points Saturday, UCSB could still gain consideration for Nationals if they finish well at the upcoming West Regional Championships.
“Our expectations going into the meet were to make a jump to the next level as a team, meaning be able to compete with the big guns out there,” McConville said. “How it actually ended up working out was as a team we just didn’t run well.”
In all, 73 (22 ranked) men’s teams competed in the event and were split into two sections. Competing in the Blue section, the Gauchos finished 20th with 490 points; #5 Stanford took first with 89 points. Defending national champion #3 Colorado took first in the White section, where UCSB would have likely finished 16th.
Individually for Santa Barbara, junior Mike Chavez led the way, running one of his best cross country races and finishing 57th out of 217 runners with a time of 24:40. Chavez was able to pull ahead of two Cal Poly runners late in order to secure a finish 33 seconds better than his 25:13 time last year.
Junior Chris Ashley, who has been one of the stars for UCSB the past two seasons, beat last year’s time by 20 seconds but still had a bit of a disappointing run, finishing 79th at 24:53. Not far behind was junior Art Avitia in 86th place at 24:56.
“The lone bright spot was [Avitia], who actually did run well,” McConville said. “Everyone else ran sub-par and overall we know we’re better than that.”
McConville and senior Scott Brandos finished with times of 25:16 and 25:29, good for 123rd and 145th, respectively.
Because UCSB failed to capitalize on the opportunity at Pre-Nationals, their performance in the West Regional Championships will be critical for their hopes to make it to Nationals. It will be no easy task as the West Region, in which the Gauchos currently rank #8, features seven teams currently ranked in the top 35.
“This race was very humbling for us,” McConville said. “As a team it puts us back at ground zero, now all we can do is take what we can from this race and put it towards the next couple months.”
Before heading to Regionals on Nov. 12, UCSB will battle rival Cal Poly for Big West supremacy at the Big West Championships in Riverside in two weeks.