For the first time in UCSB’s history, both the #22 men’s and #7 women’s cross country teams qualified for the NCAA National Championships.
The women’s team finished second in Saturday’s West Region Championships and earned an automatic slot at Nationals for the first time in the program’s history. The Gauchos placed four runners in the top-15 and finished behind only top-ranked Stanford, a team that featured three of the top four finishers.
“[Stanford] is the #1 team in the country and we really can’t touch them right now, but we can definitely be a top-10 team,” Head Coach Pete Dolansaid. “We’ve been consistent all season long and right now we control our own destiny.”
Senior Lauren Christman led the way for the Gauchos with a fifth-place finish, followed by her twin sister Lindsay who took 10th place. Seniors Stephanie Rothstein and Megan Lewis have had trouble staying healthy this season, but both runners performed well on Saturday, finishing 14th and 15th respectively. Sophomore Danielle Domenichelli rounded out the scoring for the Gauchos by finishing in 28th place.
Stanford junior Arianna Lambie won her second consecutive regional title by finishing the 6,000-meter course in 20:58.85. Lambie dominated the race, finishing 13 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, her teammate senior Kathleen Trotter.
While the women’s team cruised to an automatic berth, the men had to wait until Sunday to learn that they too had been awarded an at-large berth at Nationals. The Gauchos entered Regionals as the fifth-ranked team in the West, but finished the race in seventh place. Race winner Oregon and second-place Stanford automatically qualified for Nationals, as the Gauchos were one of seven teams in the West region to receive an at-large bid.
The Gauchos were a lock-in for Nationals before the race, but several poor individual performances led to a disappointing team finish. Senior Chris Ashley, the 2005 Big West Champion, finished in 54th place and senior Micah Tyhurst finished 79th after an eighth place finish two weeks ago at the Big West Championships.
“It’s very disappointing because we just didn’t get the job done,” Dolan said. “We have run better than this three other times this year.”
Senior J.D. Krawczyk led the Gauchos with an unexpected seventh place finish, followed by senior Mike Chavez in 14th. Junior Tim Aukshunas and sophomore Waleed Totari rounded out the Gaucho scoring by finishing 47th and 49th, respectively. Totari’s performance was particularly surprising as he finished last out of seven Gauchos at the Big West Championships.
The last time the men’s team qualified for the NCAA Championships was back in 2001. The women qualified in 2003 and 2004, but this is the first season in which both teams will run at Nationals. The NCAA Championships will be held on Monday, Nov. 20, in Terre Haute, Ind.