Aug. 30, 2007
n one of the tighest ballots in recent memory, UC Santa Barbara edged out UC Irvine and UC Riverside for the top spot in the Big West Women's Cross Country preseason coaches poll.
UCSB, the defending conference champion, picked up two first place votes on the way to a total of 71 points, narrowly finishing ahead of UCI (70) and UCR (67). The Gauchos had the best season in their program history a year ago, finishing with a #7 ranking in the country after a string of excellent performances. Junior Danielle Domenichelli and senior Megan Lewis will lead the UCSB contingent as it aims to stay among the nation�s elite. Domenichelli finished sixth (22:15.7) at the Big West Championships a year ago, while Lewis was eighth (22:27.6). Liza Hitchner was another strong performer at the conference championships with a tenth place finish in 22:30.2. Lewis also turned in an excellent performance at the NCAA Championships, finishing 67th (21:50.3) on the way to helping the Gauchos finish ninth in the nation.
UC Irvine, which recorded three first place votes, aims to reclaim the conference crown after winning the title in the 2005 season. Leading the way for the Anteaters is junior Laura Olvera who finished second (21:23.9) at the Big West Championships and 83rd (21:57.4) at the NCAA Championships after earning an at-large berth into the event. Seniors Sara Mickelson, who finished third at the Big West Championships (21:30.9) and Marie Nguyen (12th-22:54.5) give the Anteaters three runners who finished in the top 12 of the conference championships last season.
UC Riverside, which tied UCI for the most first place votes with three, returns a group of talented runners to the fold. The top returnee for the Highlanders is junior Cristina Olivas who finished 11th (22:42.4) at the conference meet. Olivas is one of four returning UCR runners who finished in the top 20 at the Big West Championships in 2006. That group includes seniors Sarah Tesfaye (15th-23:02.3), Lisa Lopez (16th-23:06.1) and sophomore Danielle Evans (17th-23:07.1).
Cal Poly, which claimed the final first place vote, and newcomer UC Davis tied for fourth in the poll with 49 points apiece, while Long Beach State�s 37 tallies outlasted Cal State Fullerton�s 35 for sixth place. Cal State Northridge (17) and Pacific (9) rounded out the women�s preseason poll.
2007 Big West Women's Cross Country Coaches Poll Results
1. UC Santa Barbara (2) - 71
2. UC Irvine (3) - 70
3. UC Riverside (3) - 67
t-4. Cal Poly (1) - 49
t-4. UC Davis - 49
6. Long Beach State - 37
7. Cal State Fullerton - 35
8. Cal State Northridge - 17
9. Pacific - 10