A week ago, UCSB cross country Head Coach Pete Dolan received an excellent performance from his #11 women’s team. Last Saturday, Dolan saw a group of his athletes excel once again, only this time it was the men’s squad that came away with a stellar finish in the Stanford Invitational.
Running at full strength for the first time this season, the Gaucho men finished in second place overall, just behind pre-race favorite #4 Stanford. UCSB finished ahead of three other Big West teams and also beat out Division II power Chico State and Cal, ranked eighth in the Western Region.
Santa Barbara’s runners finished with 58 points collectively – giving them second place out of the 19 teams entered in the competition – while Stanford runners earned 42 points for the win.
Gaucho senior Mike Chavez led a pack of five UCSB runners who worked together throughout the race, sitting behind the lead pack before advancing through the field in the final two miles. Chavez finished the 8k race in fourth place with a time of 23:45, just 14 seconds behind top finisher Neftalem Araia of Stanford.
“We were racing pretty conservatively, but he surprised me a little with how he closed,” Dolan said. “That was a national-class performance.”
Seniors Chris Ashley and J.D. Krawczyk finished eighth and 10th, respectively, to give UCSB three top-10 finishers for the second week in a row. Juniors Micah Tyhurst and Tim Aukshunas rounded out the scoring for UCSB by both finishing in the top 25.
“We found out that J.D. can not only run with the top guys, but he’s right there with them at the end,” Dolan said. “I’m really confident because of how much depth we have.”
With their finish, the Gaucho men can expect to move up in the regional rankings, and a spot in the national top 30 may also be on the way. The men’s team has not been nationally ranked since 2001, when it was #17 in the country.
The women’s team moved all the way to #11 last week in the national rankings, but, with his top nine female runners resting, the Stanford race provided a good opportunity for Dolan to see what the rest of his runners could do. Senior Christie Farson and freshman Lisette Arellano finished 42nd and 44th, respectively, in a field that featured over 120 competitors.
“[Farson] had her best race of her career, and it was fun to see [Arrellano] do well,” Dolan said. “She was fantastic.”
Top-ranked Stanford placed five runners in the top 10 and surprised no one by winning the overall title for both men and women. The Gaucho women finished 11th as a team, but Dolan said he believes that they would have given Stanford a run for their money had they competed with a full team.
“Stanford is a good team, but I think that my top three girls could have been right there with them, had they run,” Dolan said.
Santa Barbara’s top female runners will be back in action Oct. 14, along with the men’s team, as the Gauchos compete at the NCAA Pre-Nationals event in Terre Haute, Ind.