UCSB proved the “S” stands for speed as the men’s and women’s cross country teams opened their 2008 seasons with a first-place finish for the women and second place for the men at the UCSB Lagoon Open on Aug. 30. UCSB continued its momentum by taking third for the women and sixth for the men at the Aztec Invitational on Sep. 13.

Senior Danielle Domenichelli delivered a strong performance at UCSB Lagoon Open by finishing first in the 5K race with a time of 17:51. Coming in fourth was freshman Ashlee Beechan, who turned in a solid performance with her time of 18:21 Senior Ashley Ramirez, junior Katie Voigtlander and sophomore Breanne Strenkowski also helped the Gauchos achieve victory by placing within the top ten spots with times of 18:40, 18:41 and 18:44 respectively. The Gaucho women defeated Cal Poly 38-26 and Westmont 78-19.

“For the women, it was a tough year last year since we had a lot of injuries, but I am looking forward to starting the season,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “This summer we had a good training camp, so it was great to be together and see the different types of athletes we have currently in our house.”

On the men’s side, the Mustangs proved to be more than Santa Barbara could handle, defeating the Gauchos 19-42. However, stellar performances by senior Scott Smith helped propel UCSB to a second-place victory in the 8K race in 24:42 and an overall second-place win for the team. Sophomore Ryan Martin kicked off the race by winning the community 5K run around the Lagoon with his time of 16:30. The Mustangs’ own sophomore Daniel Gonia took the first place prize by running the 8K in 24:23.With these great results, Dolan sees the Big West title as up for the taking.

“Our goal is always going to be going to Big West, but we will also use this time to see if our team needs more bonding or if they can stand on their own,” Dolan said. “We are currently training harder as we are ranked 19th in the country, but we will try to be prime to do the best of our abilities.”

With solid performances on both sides, the Gauchos continued their winning ways by producing great races at the San Diego State Aztec Invitational. The women were once again anchored by Domenichelli, whose ninth-place finish in a group of 161 runners factored in greatly for the third-place team ranking at the invitational. Her time of 18:09 in the 5K course helped the Gauchos secure the win. Beechan and Voigtlander also turned in strong performances, placing 20th and 27th to help UCSB carry the team win.

“I believe that by the season’s end, our team will be in the top five in California,” Dolan said. “I have the utmost confidence that my team can pull through.”

Junior Julian DeRubira placed 42nd out of 400 runners for the men by finishing in 26:03. Scott turned an amazing performance at the Aztec Invitational by running 25:29 and placing 15th, capturing an overall sixth-place finish out of 17 teams. UCSB’s final score value was 217, which kept them secure at the top.

UCSB will return on Saturday, Sept. 27 and bring its A-game. Both the men and women will be competing at the Stanford Invitational.