On Saturday the runners of the UCSB cross country team took to the track at the Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Ore. for the NCAA West Regional race. It was the final race before the National Championships that will take place next Monday in Terre Haute, Ind., and those who qualified in Saturday’s race will move on to Nationals. Overall, the women finished sixth with 228 points, and the men tied for eighth with 217 points.
“Workouts leading up to this race for both teams were very good,” Head Coach Peter Dolan said. “Both teams were focused and ready to make their seasons as long as possible.”
Conditions were not favorable on Saturday. Though the sun was out, the course was muddy, which can make it hard to move. In the men’s 10k race, senior Scott Smith avoided any potential problems caused by the mud by staying at the front of the pack for the entirety of the race. His efforts paid off, and he finished in fourth place with a time of 30:42.60, which was good enough to land him All-Region honors and a spot in Nationals.
“About the last mile or so I realized that barring a fall or catastrophic meltdown, I knew that I was probably going to finish in the top 10 which was my kind of ‘if the stars align’ goal,” Smith said. “You can’t really see the finish line until about 100 or so meters to go, but that’s when it hit me that I was about to pull something off that was going to make not only myself proud, but teammates, coaches and alumni proud as well.”
“Scott finished the highest of any Gaucho in history at the West Region, so he gets some legend status for that feat,” Dolan said.
Senior Julian deRubira also picked up All-Region honors. He finished in 31:13.49, which was good enough for 19th place but just outside the qualifying range for Nationals. Redshirt freshman Juan Paredes was the next Gaucho to finish, coming in 38th with a time of 31:47.97. He was followed by senior Waleed Totari, who took 44th in 31:56.79, and redshirt freshman Bhavik Kanzaria, who finished 121st in 33:39.18.
“It was pretty disappointing that we fell off so much after our fourth guy,” Smith said. “I know the effort was there, it’s just frustrating that it didn’t translate to the result we wanted and knew we were capable of.”
In the women’s 6k race, junior Crystal Reed used the same strategy as Smith to avoid mud-related complications. As a result, she enjoyed similar success. Reed was the first Gaucho to cross the finish line, coming in 12th with a time of 21:18.95, which earned her All-Region honors and a chance to race in Nationals.
“When I realized I had made nationals [I felt] a kind of disbelief really,” Reed said. “I was just hoping for All-Region. I was really hurting at the end of the race and thought I couldn’t push much more, but when I had realized how close I was to qualifying I had put all the pain aside and [I] just went for it.”
Unfortunately, Reed’s success was not mirrored by the rest of her team. Junior Amanda Moreno was the next Gaucho to finish, coming in 43rd with a time of 22:02.28. She was followed by junior Breanne Strenkowski (44th, 22:02.65), sophomore Megan Petkovic (67th, 22:30.02) and sophomore Andrea Jacobs (70th, 22:33.73).
“It’s really weird to be the only girl left,” Reed said. “I knew I would pick it up towards the end of the season, but I had no clue I would get this far. I feel like both of the teams did well.”
As Reed and Smith are the only Gauchos on their way to Indiana, coach Dolan expects nothing but their best as they represent Santa Barbara. He believes that on Monday he will see exactly that.
“[On] race day Scott can run with the best in the country,” Dolan said. “The expectations are top 30 and All-American. This is his time. I am very excited for him. After watching Crystal race back into great form this year I wonder how much better she can be. Her upside seems limitless. She is healthy, knows how to race and loves the big stage. It will be another exciting performance to watch.”