This weekend, UCSB cross country travels to Eugene, Oregon to compete in the NCAA West Regionals on Saturday. The top two teams will automatically earn a trip to Indiana with a spot in the NCAA National Championship on Nov. 22.
The women’s team is coming off a first place finish in the Big West Championships, while the men’s team finished third in the conference. Each team is sending seven runners to the race, with the top five scored. The team with the lowest combined score wins.
The women are sending an experienced group consisting of four seniors and three juniors, with senior Amanda Moreno leading the way. Moreno is coming of a record-setting performance in the Big West Championships and is confident the team will continue to excel.
“Expectations have been pretty high all season,” Moreno said. “We have a really good chance to make Nationals.”
The Gauchos will face more competition than seen in the Big West, as they go up against nationally ranked teams like Stanford, Arizona, and Oregon.
Head Coach Pete Dolan explained how the team was not at their best in the beginning for the season, but is peaking at the right time.
“We didn’t run really well until conference, so we have to run really well again,” he said.
“It’s going to be hard … we just have to beat teams like Cal and USF,” Moreno added.
A team that does not finish in the top two can still go to Nationals, if the NCAA chooses them as one of 13 at-large bids.
Coach Dolan is optimistic in their chances of be selected if they do not finish in the top two.
“Historically, [the NCAA] has taken seven or eight teams from our region,” he explained.
Last year the team finished in sixth and just missed on being selected for Nationals.
“It was not that great of an experience,” Moreno said. “We’re absolutely hoping for a better result [this year].”
Individual runners from a team that does not qualify can go to Nationals if they have one of the top four overall times. Last year, as a junior, Crystal Reed went to Nationals by fitting these criteria. She finished 12th overall, which was the third fastest from a team that did not qualify.
This year, the whole team is hoping to qualify, and Moreno is especially optimistic about their top three runners.
“We have a really good top three; we can put our top three in front of a lot of teams,” Moreno explained. “I have confidence [we all] can step it up.”
he women’s 6k race starts at 9:45 a.m., while the men’s 10k race starts an hour later.
The men’s team is a little younger, with one freshman, two sophomores, and four juniors, and placed eighth in Regionals last year.
“We’re not a national caliber team yet, but we’re really looking forward to being national caliber next year,” Coach Dolan said.
Only six points away from finishing first in the Big West, the team has a good chance to beat the likes of UC Davis and UC Riverside.
“We have a lot to prove,” Coach Dolan said. “It’s a different team now than at the beginning of the season.”
“The whole season we’ve been building towards this race,” sophomore Jaun Paredes explained. “We wanna beat all the Big West teams and hopefully take out some Pac 10 teams.”
Paredes also talked about the chances of qualifying for Nationals by getting an at-large big.
“It’s possible on a good day,” he said. “We’d probably have to place fourth or fifth and beat Cal or UCLA.”
As the Gauchos are not anticipating a national bid, they look forward to running without any added pressures.
“We’re just going to run our race,” Paredes said.