Brea, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara Cross Country competed at the Big West Championships this past Saturday down in Brea at Carbon Canyon Regional Park hosted by Cal State Fullerton. The Gaucho men would end up taking second to Cal Poly at the eight kilometer distance to uphold the Blue-Green Rivalry at the conference meet 33 to 69, while the Gaucho women would take fourth overall at the six kilometer distance in a well contested battle between the likes of Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, and UC Davis.
Cal Poly 32
UC Santa Barbara 69
Cal State Fullerton 104
UC Riverside 110
Long Beach State 134
UC Irvine 162
Cal State Northridge 166
UC Davis 166
The race would begin with all eight Big West schools beelining for position with the course immediately bottlenecking 200 meters in. The main contenders would slot themselves in front with a huge group of Cal Poly runners leading the way and a pack of Gauchos close behind. As the race approached the mile mark, Cal Poly's Jake Ritter would break away commandingly from the pack to establish a quick 20 meter lead with UCSB's own Brian Schulz following just off Ritter's shoulder. The two would enter the isolated backend dirt loops of the course heading into the second mile with the rest of the field still a good ways back, leaving it up to the imagination of the anxious spectators to wonder who would emerge first from the dirt trail.
As the minutes came and went, Ritter would return to the main grass loops of the course with his lead growing, leaving Schulz alone in second a good ten meters back with no one to feed off of. Behind Schulz, a group of Mustangs would pop out next with junior Daniel Mountcastle following calmly behind waiting to strike. As all the competitors began to emerge from the dirt trails one by one it became more and more apparent that the team title would be between the Mustangs and the Gauchos once again as Nick Randazzo and Yousef Baddour began to take closer order as well as they went through mile three. But with the closing stages of the race taking place in the backend loops one last time, the crowd would have to wait in anticipation to see how the race would turn out at the entrance of the dirt trail once again.
Cal Poly's Jake Ritter would emerge from the trail again all alone as he concluded the race with plenty of run left in him, taking the individual title in 24:27.5. After stalking the first chase pack for the majority of the race, Mountcastle would open up his stride and make a long charge for home to take second in 24:39.1, matching his placing from the track conference 5000m back in May. A winded but brave Schulz would hold on valiantly, rocking side to side with his teeth clenched to take third just behind Mountcastle in 24:40.5, both earning their first All-Conference honors in cross country. Though Randazzo would make his bid early along with Mountcastle, he would have to settle for 17th in 25:22.7, doing what he could to keep the team in contention. Yousef Baddour, after sitting on the sidelines for the latter half of the season with a foot injury, would grind it out for his team in the final stages of the race to take 22nd in 25:33.4, while Alex Barr would make his return to a top five scoring position in 30th in a time of 25:54.7. Cal Poly would end up placing five in the top ten to take home the conference title.
"It was a pretty good showing for the guy's team," remarked interim head coach Darius Terry. "It was nice to see Daniel and Brian leading the charge to finish second and third overall. Rough showing for Nick and Yousef battling injury and illness over the past two weeks, but they were still able to run tough for the team."
"None of the athletes that competed today are graduating so I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do next year."
Cal Poly 33
Cal State Fullerton 39
UC Davis 74
UC Santa Barbara 82
UC Irvine 157
UC Riverside 187
Long Beach State 207
Cal State Northridge 238
Much like the men's race, the women would start out with an aggressive 200 meter sprint for ideal positioning before the bottleneck. Once the jockeying for position had concluded however, the pace would slow to a near canter, no one willing to press for the opening stages of the six kilometer affair. The slow start would result in a huge group beginning to bunch at the front with top contenders from Cal Poly, Fullerton, Davis, and UCSB all waiting for someone to crack, going through the first mile at nearly six minute mile pace.
This game of cat and mouse would continue all the way to one and a quarter miles with the entrance to the backend trail loop fast approaching, with Astrid Rosvall, Katie Camarena, Emma Overell, and Marisa Rodriguez all still in the front group. With two dirt loops out of sight dictating the race before the women would come back into view, another anticipatory crowd began to form at the dirt loop entrance awaiting the competitors. With only one kilometer remaining shortly after the conclusion of the loops, a group of Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton runners would be leading the way with Astrid Rosvall still hot on their heels. Katie Camarena would settle into the second pack a few seconds behind with true freshman Emma Overell a ways back with a third group taking form. Marisa Rodriguez would soon emerge after with some backup on the way as redshirt freshman Jasmine Rippey would finally make her claim to a scoring position in the final stages of the race.
At the finish, Cal Poly's Miranda Daschian would finally pull away from the front pack in the last 200 meters to take the individual title with Fullerton's Samantha Huerta breaking up a possible Poly sweep to take second. Astrid Rosvall, having stuck with the leaders throughout the majority of the race, would be rewarded for her efforts to take fifth overall in 21:46.5 to earn All-Conference honors in cross country for the first time. Camarena, having sat out all of last week with the flu, would just miss out on All-Conference but would fight hard to the finish to take 11th in 22:05.2. Emma Overell would muster up a solid close to finish 17th overall in 22:37.3, the highest a true freshman has placed at the conference championships for the Gauchos since Danielle Domenichelli finished 15th all the way back in 2005. Lastly, Marisa Rodriguez and Jasmine Rippey would cross the line close together in 24th and 25th with times of 22:50.7 and 22:51.9.
Regarding the women's performance, interim head coach Darius Terry had this to add. "Similar to the guys, we have a young team with eight competitors from this meet returning next year. Great to see Astrid mix it up with the top competitors and come away with a fifth place finish. Now we can switch our focus onto the West Regional Meet to have a strong finish to the season."
With the conference meet in the books, the Gauchos will now look forward to facing their largest field of competitors in two weeks time at the NCAA West Regional Meet in Sacramento on November 9th.