While most Gauchos were preparing for a night of partying on Del Playa Drive last Saturday, the UCSB cross country team was running in the Big West Championships at UC Riverside. Running at full strength for the first time since Sept. 19, the Gaucho women took first place to win the division for the fifth time in seven years. The men also had a good day, taking second behind an unwavering Cal Poly squad.
According to Head Coach Pete Dolan, the women came into this race with absolutely no momentum, having finished 32nd in their Pre-Nationals race two weeks ago. However, everyone was finally healthy, and they knew they had the ability to win. In her first time competing in the Big West Championships, junior Crystal Reed ran the best race of her career, completing the six-kilometer race in just 20:43.5, leading the Gauchos to first place overall and taking fourth place herself on the way to All-Conference honors.
“Crystal Reed was a phenomenal talent in high school and junior college,” Dolan said. “I knew one day her time would come. She couldn’t have picked a better day to put it together as a Gaucho.”
Though she led her team, Reed did not win the title by herself. Three other Gauchos finished in the top 10, all of whom also received All-Conference accolades. UCSB’s second runner to finish was transfer Amanda Moreno. She finished about five seconds after Reed, taking sixth place with a time of 20:48.9. She was followed closely by junior Breanne Strenkowski, who took ninth with a time of 21:06.9, and junior Katie Voigtlander, who came in 10th with a time of 21:07.7. Not only did these runners have great races, they did it as a team.
“This team ran as a pack … Reed, Moreno, Strenkowski and Voigtlander well past the two mile mark,” Dolan said. ”It was a great visual. All the fans were commenting on the Gaucho pack.”
It seemed like the men were poised for similar success as their race came to a close. Senior Julian deRubira finished second overall with a time of 23:40.3 over the eight kilometers, earning him All-Conference honors. The effort was not quite enough, however, to beat out Cal Poly. The Mustangs had all five of their scorers finish in the top 10, with one of their runners finishing first with a conference-record time of 23:36.8. Overall, Cal Poly scored 28 points, while the Gauchos scored 67 to take second.
“It was a good day considering everything,” Dolan said. “Poly did not falter at all.”
Senior Scott Smith also had a good race, finishing fifth and earning All-Conference honors with his time of 24:00.5. However, the rest of the Gaucho scorers did not do quite as well. Senior Waleed Totari finished 13th with a time of 24:40.8, and redshirt freshman Juan Paredes finished 15th, just milliseconds behind Totari. The fifth Santa Barbara scorer was sophomore Doug Whichard, who finished with a time of 25:54.6, finishing 34th.
“I am proud of these guys for pulling second [place],” Dolan said. ”Davis and Riverside had our number last year and we were able to turn the tables on them.”
For the next two weeks, the Gauchos will be preparing for the West Regional Championships in Springfield, OR. To say the least, Dolan expects a lot out of his team.
“Now is the time to play the ‘tradition’ card with the team,” Dolan said. “Since 2001 we have been on the national scene. The team needs to know that is their heritage. The UCSB jersey commands respect at Regionals.”