The UCSB cross country teams head to two different venues this weekend with hopes of continuing their recent success. The top runners for each team will make the trip to Terre Haute, Ind., to compete in Pre-Nationals, while the rest of the team will make the short trip to San Luis Obispo to run in the Cal Poly Invitational.

“For those runners who didn’t make the top seven and are heading to Cal Poly, the main message is that you didn’t get to go to the party,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “It can be hard to run there, but sometimes runners rise up at that meet.”

The women’s team is led by senior Bethany Nickless, who was named co-Big West Athlete of the Week for her seventh-place finish at the Griak Invitational on Sept. 29th. As a team, the Gauchos took fourth place with 156 points behind first-place University of Minnesota, Arizona State and Michigan State. The women again proved they deserve to be considered among the best in the country by finishing above #10 Virginia.

“Nickless is in territory she’s never been in before because she was just training for cross country this summer and she was so mentally solid at Griak,” Dolan said. “That was the best race of her life thus far. She’s very physically fit and she’s not afraid of running with the best in the country.”

While the women’s team was in Minnesota, the men stayed in California and competed in the Stanford Invitational. UC Santa Barbara finished third as a team behind Stanford and Cal. In a surprising turn of events, senior Mike Powers nabbed 14th place (24:36); just two-tenths a second in front of senior captain Tim Aukshunas (24:28). Sophomore Julian DeRubira secured a 21st place finish and senior Micah Tyhurst was just a step behind him.

“It’s strange because we are counting on [senior] Scott [Smith], Tim [Aukshunas] and Micah [Tyhurst], but Powers was our number one and Julian [DeRubira], who has a load of talent, was our three,” Dolan said. “I’m really happy because we have a legitimate team and we beat several schools in that race.”

Powers finished fifth in the state as a senior in high school, but up until the end of the 2005 season he hadn’t quite shown the same results in collegiate competition. Ironically the same Cal Poly race that his teammates will run in this weekend was the breakout performance for Powers, as he finished eighth place, before finishing 14th overall at the Big West Championships.

“Powers is really an enigma,” Dolan said. “We were fortunate to get him as a recruit then he didn’t do too well in his first three years, but last season he was a great steeplechaser. He had a terrible time-trial, but then he led us at Stanford so that shows you that if you stay at it year after year, you get rewarded.”

The goal for Powers and his fellow teammates remains to get to Nationals, and their odds will become clearer after this weekend. Either way, Dolan is looking for top performances from all of his runners as they look to continue the success that they’ve had in the last year and a half.

“When everybody’s on, it’s a party and I’m not talking about the kind of party like you find in Isla Vista,” Dolank said. “There are smiles on everyone’s face and everyone does what it takes to focus because nobody wants to miss a party.”