Women's Cross Country Eyeing a Repeat of Conference Championship and Nationals Appearance

Aug. 29, 2008

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - With summer drawing to a close, the cross-country season approaches. After an impressive 2007 campaign culminating in a Big West Championship and an invite to the NCAA Championships, the UC Santa Barbara women's cross-country team looks to continue their dominance in 2008. It all starts this weekend as the Gauchos will race against Cal Poly and Westmont at UCSB's lagoon.

In order to do so, the Gauchos will have to overcome the loss of their top two runners, Bethany Nickless and Megan Lewis, who finished 66th and 68th at the 2007 Nationals.

This year a young and hungry team will be lead by two returning seniors, Danielle Domenichelli and Liza Hitchner. Both were members of the 2006 team that captured ninth place at Nationals and the two aim to use their experience to guide the Gauchos to another successful performance in 2008.

Dominechelli, a 2006 All-Conference runner, finished 73rd at last year's Nationals and also competed for the UCSB Track and Field Team. Exhibiting her tremendous athleticism, Daniel ran the 800 meters, 1500 meters and earned All-America recognition in the 5K last year.

Hitchner, also a 2006 All-Big West Conference athlete, is coming off a strong 2007 season in which she finished 143rd at Nationals. Hitchner also displayed amazing tenacity by rebounding from an injury to finish eighth in the 10K at the Big West Conference Championships for the Track and Field Team.

Another Gaucho to watch is senior Ashley Ramirez, who transferred from Oxnard College last year and looks to make an immediate impact.

While the Gauchos have been running as a team for a few weeks, any cross-country runner will admit it's the off-season training that makes all the difference. As Assistant coach Avery Blackwell put it, "If you don't do the work in June, July and August, it's already over." The coach described the athletes as looking pretty "fit" upon arriving this August and said he's "excited about this season because both the men and women have worked hard this summer." Since running time trials on the first day of practice the women have been training on both the track and the bluffs north of UCSB, some running as many as 100 miles a week.

The season kicks off this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. with the home opener against Cal Poly and Westmont. The teams are set to engage in a 5K race around the UCSB lagoon. Cal Poly has won the Big West title eight of the last 10 years and this will be a good chance to see how this highly-anticipated UCSB squad matches up.