With both the #13 men’s and #7 women’s teams now nationally ranked, UCSB cross country Head Coach Pete Dolan can use Friday’s Titan Invitational to get a good look at the next generation of Gaucho runners.

The top nine runners for each team will skip Friday’s race in order to get extra rest in preparation for next weekend’s Big West Championships. This weekend’s race will feature a number of freshmen and sophomores who are looking for experience, as well as a few upperclassmen who have been unable to crack the stellar Gaucho lineup.

“It’s still exciting because it’s the last race for people who will not run at Big West,” Dolan said. “They’ve worked just as hard as everyone else and this validates their hard work.”

With the majority of the men’s top runners in their final year with the program, the Titan Invitational will give Dolan and the rest of the coaching staff an opportunity to see how well this year’s freshman class will perform. Dillon Brook, Julian de Rubira, Jayson Hayes and Colton Tully-Doyle form a class that is expected to one day meet the same success as this year’s seniors.

“I love to see the freshmen show what they can do,” Dolan said. “They are the future.”

Both the men and the women should benefit from an easy course, as the event will be held at Cal State Fullerton’s Sports Complex. The course starts and finishes on the schools track, and traverses the various concrete pathways and grass athletic fields that surround the track. Compared to some of the winding hill-laden courses that the team has faced already and will face later this year, it will be a very easy race.

“It’s flat as a pancake and it’s the easiest course in cross country,” Dolan said. “It’s a real ego-booster for the runners.”

While the course may provide a confidence boost for those who are running on Friday, the rest of the Gauchos need no such boost after seeing this week’s national rankings. Following last weekends fourth place finish at Pre-Nationals, the men’s team moved up in the regional rankings and cracked the national rankings for the first time all year.

The men started the year ranked 11th in the West Region, but they now sit in third trailing only Pac-10 powers Stanford and Oregon. They also received 266 points in Tuesday’s national rankings and now find themselves ranked 13th in the country – a remarkable feat for a team that went unranked the entire season.

The women’s team also started the year unranked, but after a win earlier this season at the Griak Invitational, they sprinted to #11. Since then, the Gauchos have continued to run well and have climbed to seventh in the country after a fourth place finish at Pre-Nationals. The women also held their position as the #2 team in the West Region for the third consecutive week, trailing only Stanford – the top team in the country.

Friday’s event will start with the women’s 5K race at 4:30 p.m. and will conclude with the men’s 8K later that evening. Following the Titan Invitational, the Gauchos will be back in action on Oct. 28 at the Big West Championships held at Cal Poly.