Saturday’s Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind. was a tale of two Gaucho cross country squads.
The women’s team finished in 11th place with 293 points behind a strong performance from senior Bethany Nickless, but the men struggled to a 24th place result and their top finisher, senior Mike Powers, wound up placing 73rd overall.
“[The women] ran as well as I thought they could,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “We will still be looking to stay nationally ranked, but we definitely raced as well as we did in Griak. It has been really dry [in Indiana] so it was like asphalt underneath the grass which made everyone’s times smoking fast. The men’s [race] was first and the coaches were surprised by how fast people ran, but I told the women not to freak out about the speed so they had a little advantage going second.”
Nickless, the reigning co-Big West Athlete of the week, paced UCSB for the second consecutive race with a 22nd place run (20:50) and senior Megan Lewis followed her 30th place finish (20:56) on the 6k course. The pairing of juniors Danielle Domenichelli and Liza Hitchner again bore fruit as they finished 57th and 58th respectively.
“Bethany powered her way through this race and Megan had great confidence as well,” Dolan said. “Danielle and Liza worked great together, but they flip-flopped because Danielle led Liza this time whereas it was the reverse at Griak.”
The men’s team did not run its best race because seniors Micah Tyhurst and Tim Aukshunas were unable to guide the group. Tyhurst finished 104th and Aukshunas had a tough outing, placing 211th, which left the door open for Powers to again lead the Gauchos with a time of 24:17 on the 8k course.
“The guys’ side had some problems,” Dolan said. “Micah wasn’t at full strength and Tim has had some physical difficulties. It was disappointing because we thought we were going to run better, but it’s a learning situation and we just need to look back at what happened. We just don’t have as much depth right now.”
Cal Poly also hosted their Mustang Invitational on Saturday where UC Riverside stole the show with nearly all of their placements in the top 10 on both the men’s and women’s sides. The UCSB women finished sixth overall behind sophomore Stephanie Garcia who placed 19th with a time of 18:52 and freshman Andrea Jacobs coming in at 24th (19:09). The Gaucho men took fourth place, but little could be said beyond the Highlanders’ performance at the invitational.