The UCSB cross country teams head to Nationals this afternoon in search of a fitting finish to what has been the most successful season in school history.

The #7 women’s team has already achieved the highest ranking in team history, and the Gauchos will go into Nationals with a good chance at breaking a number of school records. Santa Barbara has been ranked in the national top 10 since winning the Roy Griak Invitational in September and, with a strong performance, it could eclipse the previous team-best of 17th place in 2004.

UCSB is led by senior twins Lauren and Lindsay Christman, who have put in top performances all year long after redshirting the 2005 season. Lauren set a school record with her fifth place finish at Regionals, a performance that helped the Gauchos finish in second place and earned her All-Region Honors for the third time. Lindsay joined her sister on the All-Region team after finishing 10th at Regionals.

“I have real confidence in Lauren and Lindsay,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “They didn’t get to start quality training until the start of the season, so they were about a month behind in training, but they have just shown so much potential.”

Joining the Christman twins on the All-Region team were senior Stephanie Rothstein and junior Megan Lewis, who finished 14th and 15th, respectively, at Regionals. Even Dolan got into the act, picking up his first Women’s West Region Coach of the Year award after leading the Gauchos to a second-place finish. Since winning the Griak Invitational, the Gauchos have raced conservatively in order to position themselves for Nationals, a strategy that could pay off with the highest finish in school history.

While the women’s team cruised to a berth in Nationals, the #28 men’s team had to wait until the day after its seventh place finish at Regionals to learn that the Gauchos had been given an at-large selection. Today’s race marks the first trip to Nationals since 2001 for the men. While the Gauchos have struggled in recent weeks, a repeat of their fourth-place finish at Pre-Nationals in mid-October would break the team record of 17th place, set at Nationals in 2001.

Seniors J.D. Krawczyk and Mike Chavez will lead the way for the Gauchos after earning All-Region Honors a week ago. Krawczyk turned in the best performance of his career at Regionals as he finished in seventh place, matching the school record for highest finish by a male at Regionals. In order for the Gauchos to reach the potential that they showed earlier this season, the team will need strong performances from junior Micah Tyhurst and senior Chris Ashley, the 2005 Big West Champion.

“[Chavez] is solid and J.D.’s been really good all season,” Dolan said. “Chris Ashley has been solid for us but we are still hoping that he can run like a former Big West champion.”

The NCAA Cross Country National Championships will be held today in Terre Haute, Ind. The women’s 6K race will be held at 12 p.m. and the men’s 10K race will begin at 1:15 p.m.