Fullerton, Calif. - Sophomore Nick Randazzo will have more than just his 19th birthday to celebrate this weekend as he was able to capture the Division 1 individual title at the Mark Covert Classic down in Brea at Carbon Canyon Regional Park earlier this morning. Team wise, the men's team was able to take second overall out of thirteen teams over the 8k distance while the women's team took sixth overall out of twelve for 5k. Save the University of Hawaii, all Big West teams were in attendance to get a feel for the course that will be used for the Big West Conference Championships, making this meet a pivotal experience to shape the upcoming weeks ahead.
The men's race would take a steady tempo from the get go with two runners from Pepperdine taking the initial pacing duties. From there, it would be a strong Big West affair between the Gauchos, Cal Poly, and Cal State Fullerton with sophomores Yousef Baddour, Nick Randazzo, and Brian Schulz going toe to toe with Cal Poly's close knit pack of five along with Fullerton's Sam Pimentel and Jacob Smith in the mix. Little separation would be made going into the backend dirt trail loop for the second time heading into mile four, but from that same entrance Nick Randazzo would emerge alone with real estate to spare. He'd take his final turn to the finish and close out his fantastic run in 24:41.0, winning by a good seven seconds from the Cal State Fullerton duo taking second and third.
Behind Randazzo, Baddour would roll in shortly behind to take fifth in 24:52.2 with Brian Schulz behind taking ninth in 25:02.5, putting five Gauchos in the top ten. Redshirt freshman Alex Barr would come through as the fourth scorer for the men's team with a 28th place finish in 25:35.4, and true freshman Jack Landgraf would round out the scoring with a 35th place finish in 25:44.4, both competing in uniform for the first time. Cal Poly would take the men's team title with a solid score of 60 points while the Gauchos would garner 73 points with Cal State Fullerton not too far behind in 79.
"A promising performance was expected from the men's team this morning, and they didn't disappoint in the slightest," remarked Assistant Coach Thomas Poston. "Seeing Nick pull away in that last mile was great to see. I knew that he put in the work this summer and I'm happy to see it paying off. Baddour and Schulz ran great as well. Those three guys are just looking solid."
Coach Poston would go on to add, "If we could close that gap with our fourth and fifth scorers, I could see these guys doing something special later on in the season. They're highly motivated and the freshman are really buying in to the team culture as well. I look forward to see what they all have to offer."
The women's race would be controlled early on by a strong group of competitors from Cal Poly and Cal Baptist, both of which would carry that momentum throughout the duration of the race and dictate the pace. Junior Katie Camarena and sophomore transfer Astrid Rosvall would latch on to the lead group, with senior Miranda Ross and true freshmen Emma Overell and Kyla Ramsey hanging off the back of the second pack. Astrid would emerge from the final loop in the top ten to finish seventh overall in 17:57.4, while Camarena would fall back to thirteenth in 18:07.5. Ross would cover the third place scoring position in 36th in 18:41.2 with her new freshman teammate Overell finishing just behind her in 18:41.8. Ramsey would round out the scoring in 43rd with an 18:47.0.
The women would unfortunately have a rough performance this weekend finishing sixth overall behind Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, and UC Davis with 133 points. They would still outplace the likes of UC Irvine, Long Beach State, and UC Riverside, but the women's team will be heading back to the drawing board come next week to tighten things up as the season progresses.
"The women have a lot of potential but things didn't really work out this time around," said new Assistant Coach Jenna Hinkle. "The newcomers had a good showing and I'm looking forward to seeing what they're capable of. It's a rough start to the year but I've seen the capabilities of this team. I know they can bounce back in the near future."
Come Wednesday the Gaucho men and women will be heading up to Mammoth Lakes for a quick stint of altitude training before coming back down to race in their home meet at the Campus Lagoon on the 15th. Check back at UCSBGauchos.com for future coverage and follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for additional photos and news.