Gaucho Runners Rise Up At Regionals

The Gaucho Men's Cross Country team concluded an up-and-down season with a strong 7th-place effort at the NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Stanford's University Golf Course. Behind the front-running of senior J.T. Service (San Jose, CA), the Gauchos managed to hold off UCLA to hang on for 7th. On the women's side, senior Katie Appenrodt (Burlingame, CA) finished 39th to lead the Gauchos to an 8th-place team placing, their highest Regional finish since 1995. Host Stanford captured both the men's and women's regional titles, dominating the team scoring.

Senior J.T. Service led the way for the Gaucho men, earning a spot on the All-Region team, with his gutsy 18th-place effort, covering the 10k course in 31:14. After a conservative first mile, Service worked his way through the field making a strong move into 10th with 2 miles remaining. Unfortunately, the aggressive tactics proved to be too much, as the Gaucho senior faded in the closing stages of the race. However, by finishing in the top 25, Service has left open the possibility of securing an individual bid to the NCAA Championships, held in Terre Haute, Indiana on November 25th.

Along with Service, junior Ramiro Guillen (Goleta, CA) and senior team captain Brandon von Guenthner (Laguna Niguel, CA) led the Gaucho charge early, running just off the lead pack through 2 miles. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, despite a brave effort, von Guenthner began to drop back in the pack as the pain from a recurring abdominal strain (that would later send him to the hospital) hampered his performance. In his last collegiate cross country race, "VG" gamely fought all the way to the finish, coming in 68th. Guillen, a Dos Pueblos High School product, concluded a strong first season for the Gauchos, finishing in 36th (31:56).

Sophomore Scott Brandos and junior Jeff Gardina ran 3rd and 4th for the Gauchos, saving their best for last, as the tandem finished 51st and 55th. Gardina, a Santa Rosa, California native, showed once again his tenacity and aggressive racing style, charging down the hills of Stanford to a career-best performance. Meanwhile, Brandos, an Edison High School (Huntington Beach, CA) standout, closed strongly over the final 400 meters, nearly moving into the top 50.

For the women, senior Katie Appenrodt, in her final fall campaign for the Gauchos, finished in 39th (22:41), ending her career as the most successful cross country runner in school history. Appenrodt, after starting slowly, struggled to move up through a deep women's field, tiring to a credible top 40 finish. Despite a subpar performance, Appenrodt still managed to lead the Gaucho women to 8th, the highest placing of any Gaucho team in her career.

Desiree Leek, ran 2nd for the Gauchos, coming in 51st (23:02). The San Diego sophomore finished an impressive second season, showing excellent judgment, racing ability and a ferocious finishing kick.

Behind Leek, senior Lisa Dunn (Fullerton, CA) ran a tremendous last race as a Gaucho, finishing her career on an upbeat, as she raced to 66th, coming in 3rd for her team. Dunn covered the 6k course in 23:22. Freshman Lauren Christman came in just 3 seconds behind Dunn in 68th, with junior Desiree DeJesus closing out the Gaucho scoring in 83rd (23:48).

Stanford and Arizona State claimed the top 2 women's team spots, with Stanford's Alicia Craig the individual winner. On the men's side, Stanford and Oregon, the top two men's team finishers will receive automatic berths to the NCAA Championship meet. Stanford junior Donald Sage defended his Regional title to lead the Cardinal to the win. Thirteen at-large team qualifiers will be selected nationwide, with the top 4 individuals from each region (on non-qualifying teams) also invited to compete at National Championships. Service will find out Monday if his Nationals bid is accepted by the NCAA Selection Committee.