The UCSB men’s and women’s cross country teams finished their best season in school history by finishing ninth and 27th respectively, at Monday’s NCAA National Championships.
Racing in muddy conditions that slowed the pace of the race, seniors Lauren Christman and Stephanie Rothstein led the #7 Gauchos to their highest finish ever at Nationals. Christman finished the 6K race in 21:22, good for 32nd in the country. Rothstein overcame health problems late in the season to place 47th, easily beating her previous Nationals high of 83rd place, set in 2004. After finishing 10th at Regionals, senior Lindsay Christman fought through an injury to place 98th and junior Megan Lewis and senior Bethany Nickless rounded out the Gaucho scoring by placing 67th and 153rd respectively.
“It was all about survival out there because the conditions were hideous. It’s so hard to have a good race in conditions like these,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “Placing in the top 10 has been the goal for this team for two years, so ninth is a great accomplishment.”
Texas Tech sophomore Sally Kipyego won the race in 20:12, but it was not enough to lead her team to a victory as #1 Stanford used tremendous depth to take home its second consecutive title. The Cardinal was the unanimous top-ranked team in the polls all season long and finished with five runners placing 78th or better. Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arkansas finished up the top five.
After getting as high as #13 in the country earlier this season, the men’s team finished one slot ahead of their current #28 national ranking in the team’s first trip to Nationals since 2001. The Gauchos may have peaked too early this season as they finished fourth in their heat at Pre-Nationals, only to struggle later on at the Big West Championships and the NCAA West Regionals.
Junior J.D. Krawczyk followed up a seventh-place finish at Regionals with a 46th place finish on Monday to lead the way for UCSB. Senior Mike Chavez capped a strong college career by finishing 127th in his first trip to Nationals. Seniors Micah Tyhurst, 166th, and Chris Ashley, 184th, as well as junior Tim Aukshunas, 190th, rounded out the scoring for UCSB. Second-ranked Colorado upset #1 Wisconsin to win the men’s team title, with BYU senior Josh Rohatinsky taking the individual crown. Cal Poly, a team that barely beat UCSB for the Big West title, finished 13th in the country.
“It was really disappointing because we should have been in the top-20,” Dolan said. “Washington and Cal Poly took 12th and 13th and we’re as good as they are. This was a great opportunity for our seniors and they didn’t take advantage. That being said, it’s a tribute to how far this program’s come that we were disappointed with this finish.”
Monday’s race marked the first time in school history that both the men’s and women’s team competed at Nationals in the same year[. The men’s team made one previous appearance, placing 17th at the 2001 NCAA Championships. The women placed 29th in 2003, and 17th in 2004, making this year’s squad the most successful in team history.