San Luis Obispo, CA- UC Santa Barbara junior Dani Moreno raced to a third place finish to help the Gaucho women capture third place at the 2013 Big West Championships contested on a hilly Fairbanks Memorial Cross Country Course.
The men's 8000m gun went off at 9:45am. Starting on a freshly cut pasture on top of hardpack and dried wheatgrass, the Gaucho men quickly established position in the front of the initial stampede. At the 1 mile mark, Brian Guijarro was just off the hip of the leader and eventual winner, Chris Frias of Cal Poly. Ortolan, Bryce Rausa, Andrew Farkas, Tyler Brady, Adam Avila, Anthony Monroy and Brad Littooy were in direct tow. A course characterized with long gradual ascents and rolling downhill straights, Fairbanks Memorial didn't waste much time spreading out the runners and breaking a lead pack from the rest of the race.
As the runners dropped off the top of the course and opened up their gait into the downhill section leading into the 2 mile point, a wave of appreciative crowd noise grew and the now established crowd lined the quarter mile section between the start and finish lines. Guijarro, Ortolan, Rausa and Farkas all looked strong while keeping contact with the trio of Cal Poly Mustangs charging on. Guijarro still running stride for stride with Frias for the lead.
The three mile point broke the race wide open as the runners traversed a gradual switchback looping the course back into the final direction of the finish. Guijarro and Ortolan kept contact with the lead pack. Rausa and Farkas drifted 20m back but still running tall. Four UCSB runners were holding onto a position in the top-10. 1500m specialist, Shyan Vaziri suddenly came into the picture displaying a break through cross country moment for the track speedster. For a few brief moments the race was out of sight but a faint cowbell down the home straight sounded the call that the finish surge was on. Chris Frias and Mitchell Moriarty of Cal Poly would take the top-2 spots.
Rausa sprinted through the finish line to take the 9th scoring place. Putting three Gauchos in the top-10 behind the efforts of Guijarro (6) and Ortolan (7). Vaziri would go on to take 12th and Anthony Monroy finished in 15th. Adam Avila rounded out the top-20.
The top-5 runners for the Gauchos would capture top-15 placings but it wasn't enough to hold off Cal Poly, 32-49. UC Davis finished in third with 54 points. UC Santa Barbara improved on their pre-race ranking of 3rd coming into the Big West Championships.
Head Coach Pete Dolan was proud of his men's team effort: "These
guys are good and they improved so much over the summer. We
improved from last year and this was a good effort. Unfortunately
today, we couldn't overcome Poly's powerhouse trio."
Men's Final Scores:
Cal Poly 32
UC Santa Barbara 49
UC Davis 54
Long Beach St. 118
UC Irvine 127
Cal St. Fullerton 124
UC Riverside 177
Cal St. Northridge 253
The Gaucho women were playing catch up from the sound of the gun. In fact everyone was. A possessed Lauren Hollander, the sophomore from Cal Poly led wire to wire over the 6,000m course and won by over a minute. The real race going on was for second as UC Santa Barbara's Dani Moreno went toe to toe with the powerful junior from UC Davis, Katie Fry.
Out of the gate, Moreno took command of the chase pack. Trailing closely behind were fellow Gauchos, Christine Cooperstein and Maxine Goyette. "Coop" drove hard into the first hill with Moreno setting the pace a meter a head. Hollander's lead grew at each split, and the crowd became accustomed to hearing the cowbell start and stop as she passed then restart as the chase pack came into view. At the 12 minute mark Moreno broke into second, with Fry trailing closely behind. Moreno speaking on her battle with Fry and the lead pack, "I knew I had to string them out. We were all bunched up and everyone was hesitant to take it. I was confident so I went. My form kept well and I could feel myself coming on."
And on she was. At the three mile, Fry and Moreno were neck and neck with the final loop remaining. Coop was following their battle for second closely and surged up to challenge. Moreno went on to take third with Coop on her heels securing the fourth scoring spot. Sophomore Sarah Schreck moved up to take 17th while Freshman Emily Lopez rounded out the top 20. Maxine Goyette took 21st and Baily Miller, 24th.
UC Santa Barbara finished in third with 62 points behind winner Cal Poly (37) and UC Davis (44).
Women's Final Scores:
Cal Poly 37
UC Davis 44
UC Santa Barbara 62
Long Beach St. 125
Cal St. Fullerton 147
UC Riverside 158
UC Irvine 180
Cal St. Northridge 244
The Gauchos got an added boost from their spring track and field counterparts who showed up enmasse to cheer on their teammates. Volunteer Assistant Coach Ryan Martin ran the course in the early morning before the race and had this to say in regards to the hills, "It's pretty brutal. Those inclines are 3/4 of a mile and the downhills are fast. You are flying downhill. It creates an even playing field."
The uphill climbs and downhill sprints made for an entertaining race, at least for the spectators. Coach Dolan who routinely trains his athletes on local hills in Goleta and Santa Barbara had similar thoughts but was quick to point out the difficulty. "You can go into a hurt box real quick if you don't recover."
Up next for the Gauchos will be the NCAA West Regionals on November 14th in Sacramento.