The UCSB men’s cross country team ended its season in a less than spectacular fashion Saturday, finishing 9th at the NCAA West Regional Championships in Palo Alto.
The Gauchos were hoping to carry the momentum from an excruciatingly close second-place finish at the Big West Championships two weeks ago over to Regionals, but the same energy was not there as they finished 9th with a score of 271. Santa Barbara came into the race ranked 7th in the West, which is arguably the toughest region, featuring six of the top 30 teams in the country. Arizona State dominated the race, finishing with 33 points, 47 points ahead of Stanford, who came in a distant second.
“After the Big West Championships, this is a huge letdown,” Assistant Coach David Monico said. “We had a pretty good plan going in and we were confident as to what we could have done against this caliber of teams.”
Though they had a small, outside chance of making it to Nationals if they finished first or second in the regional championships, the Gauchos were at least hoping to end their season on a high note by surprising some people at Regionals. After their strong performance in the Big West Championships, it certainly seemed possible that they had the ability to do so. But as was the case in their 20th place Pre-Nationals finish, inconsistencies plagued UCSB to a disappointing result.
“We definitely thought that if everybody ran to what they could run we could finish 7th or so,” Monico said. “But it was a strange race, because only a few of the teams really ran well.”
The individual performances for the Gauchos provided no highlights. Juniors Mike Chavez and Chris Ashley have been the Gauchos top performers all season, and after capturing the individual Big West title, Ashley was recently awarded the Big West Athlete of the Year honor. It was no repeat performance for Ashley at Regionals, however, as he finished an uncharacteristic 67th place with a time of 31:59, 4th place on the team. Chavez took first for the Gauchos on Saturday, finishing in 33rd place overall with a time of 31:12.
“Team-wise we can walk away satisfied with 9th, but where it becomes disappointing and a heartbreaker is in the individual performances,” Monico said. “We felt we should have had at least two in the top 25 and our top 5 in the top 50 on a good day; that’s the part that’s disappointing.”
Though they finished 9th in the west region, UCSB was still the second best Big West team in the field, as Cal Poly came away with a 7th place finish. Santa Barbara also outran Pac-10 squads Washington State who came away with 11th place and UCLA who finished 12th.
With the cross-country season coming to a close, the Gauchos will now turn to training for the track and field season in February.