The Big West Cross Country Championships were decided Saturday on the Fairbanks Cross Country Course at Cal Poly. The #24 UCSB women’s team placed first in the meet with 44 points and three of its runners in the top five. On the men’s side, #27 Cal Poly captured the crown in historic fashion while the Gaucho men followed with a second place result and 53 points. It was the second consecutive title for the women and the second runner-up finish for the men in as many years.
“I’m really proud of the women,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “We gave up quite a few points today and it wasn’t necessarily that the other teams ran poorly, but [the women] knew what they had to do and they knew they were favored.”
Similarly to last year, UC Santa Barbara rode four top ten placements including senior Megan Lewis who took first place (21:16) and Bethany Nickless who finished second (21:25) behind her teammate. Junior Danielle Domenichelli placed 5th (22:05.3) while junior Liza Hitchner crossed in the 14th spot (22:35.4). Freshman Breanne Strenkowski came in 22nd to round out the Gaucho top five.
“This race was about Liza [Hitchner] toughing it out,” Dolan said. “She’s always right with Danielle [Domenichelli], but she had to dig down this time because she moved down to 14th and we needed her to run well. For Megan [Lewis], [first place] is awesome especially because she took out a top girl last year.”
The #27 Cal Poly men’s team dominated the meet for the fifth straight year and made history this time as senior Phillip Reid led the top five Mustang runners into the meet’s first five placements. UC Santa Barbara came into a solid second place with their top five finishing in the top fifteen. Junior Scott Smith turned in a seventh place finish (25:38.6) to lead the Gaucho men. Behind him were senior Micah Tyhurst (25:43.1) and sophomore Julian DeRubira (25:44.9) in the seventh and eighth spots respectively.
“[Second place] is hard to take because we’re trying as hard as we can,” Dolan said. “But Cal Poly is a scary team and they rolled with their top five, particularly with home course advantage. I give them all the credit; they’re unbeatable. Riverside thought they were going to beat us, but against the rest of the competition, we rose up.”
With their respective results, the Gaucho teams place themselves in prime position for Regionals, which are set for Nov. 10th.
“Both teams did what we thought we could do,” Dolan said. “Hopefully the guys can carry that on in Regionals. The women ran two good races and one really great one so now they need just one more. It’s hard to celebrate now because we know what’s at stake.”