It was a mix of agony and ecstasy for the UCSB cross country team during Saturday’s Big West Championships.
The #13 men’s team ran well, but lost a close decision to rival Cal Poly, while the #7 women’s team broke multiple records on the way to its third conference title in four years.
The #24 Mustangs placed five runners in the top 12 and finished with 29 points to claim their fourth straight conference title. Cal Poly was led by individual champion Phillip Reid, who completed the 8K course in 25:45. The Gauchos also placed five runners in the top 12, but finished with 33 total points, just behind the Mustangs.
“It is definitely a disappointment,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “We ran very well, but [Cal Poly] ran better than us, and you just have to give them credit.”
Senior Mike Chavez ran a strong race and finished in second place, just two seconds behind Reid. Gaucho juniors J.D. Krawczyk and Micah Tyhurst finished third and eighth, respectively, followed by defending Big West champion Chris Ashley in ninth. Junior Tim Aukshunas rounded out the scoring for the Gauchos, with a 12th-place finish.
With the loss, the Gauchos will lose significant ground in the national rankings, but they can still improve their NCAA resume by finishing strong at Regionals on Nov. 11.
“Our national ranking will probably drop a lot but if we run this well at Regionals, we should be able to make it to Nationals,” Dolan said.
While the men dealt with their disappointment, the UCSB women’s team dominated the field in record fashion. The Gauchos placed seven runners in the top 10 and finished the 6K course with a school-record 26 points. Senior Lauren Christman claimed the individual title by finishing in a course-record time of 21:07.
UC Irvine’s Laura Olvera and Sara Mickelson placed second and third, respectively, followed by Lauren’s twin sister Lindsay in fourth. Sophomore Danielle Domenichelli finished in sixth, followed by four consecutive Gauchos. Senior Hadas Moser, junior Megan Lewis, senior Bethany Nickless and sophomore Liza Hitchner all finished within 15 seconds of Domenichelli to finish off the dominating Gaucho performance.
“Not to take anything away from our opponents, because Irvine and Riverside are pretty good, but it really was just a dominating performance,” Dolan said. “Each of these girls really came into their own. They ran a really smart race.”
UC Irvine finished third in the men’s race, followed by Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton. On the women’s side, Long Beach State finished a surprising second followed by UC Irvine and UC Riverside. The Gauchos will now get two weeks to rest before heading to Portland, Ore. for the NCAA Regionals in November.