The UCSB women’s cross country team proved they can hold their own without their top four runners, finishing 22nd in the White Race of the NCAA Pre-National meet in Terre Haute, Indiana this weekend. Junior Bethany Nickless was the Gauchos’ top individual performer, finishing the 6000 meter race in 21:49, good for 70th out of 232 athletes. Most of the top 35 teams in the country were present at the meet, which was split up into Blue and White races of 34 teams each.

“We were hoping for a top-20 finish and we finished 22nd, so we didn’t do quite as well as we hoped, but we gained respect out there,” senior Leslie Alexander said. “We showed people that we can still be competitive without our top four, and that’s what we were going for.”

Senior Seanna Martin and junior Hadas Moser finished second and third for the Gauchos, with times of 22:20 and 22:25, respectively. Standout freshman Danielle Domenichelli finished fourth in 22:32, and Alexander finished the scoring for the Gauchos with a time of 22:36. With an average time of 22:21, the Gauchos were the top Big West team at the meet, which should boost their confidence going into conference competition over the next few weeks.

The meet was encouraging, especially if the Gauchos can win the Big West this year without their top four runners. Then they will be that much more formidable when they return next year to fulfill their last year of eligibility. Currently UCSB is favored in the race for the Big West title after defeating rivals Long Beach State and Irvine at the Stanford Invitational.

“We feel pretty good going into the Big West Championships; that’s the race we’ve been training for all season,” Alexander said.

Next on the UCSB schedule is the Titan Invitational at Fullerton, followed by the Big West Championships on Oct. 29. The Gauchos will be looking for continued excellence from Martin, Moser and Alexander to lead the way, as well as solid contributions from Nickless, Domenichelli and fellow freshman sensation Liza Hitchner.

“[Nickless] just had a really great race, and we’re hoping she keeps it up,” Alexander said. “One of our freshmen [Domenichelli] ran a really great race too. We’re really looking to them and [Martin] and [Moser] to carry this team at Big West.”

After the conference championships, the NCAA West Regional Championship will be held on Nov. 12 to determine which teams from the region will advance to the NCAA Championship. The team would need to finish first or second to advance.