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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UCSB cross country is excited and prepared for its first meet against Cal Poly.
After many weeks of long workouts and sacrifice, the UCSB cross country teams are excited to kick off their season with the Cal Poly Dual/Lagoon run Saturday. Head coach Pete Dolan seemed just as eager and enthusiastic as a coach in his first year to get the season underway.
"First chance to get out there, and a lot of excitement," Dolan said. "The environment is great."
Dolan, who arrived at UCSB in 1988, has the poise of a veteran coach, exuding confidence in his team.
"Nervous? No. Excited? Yes," He said. "I just can't help it. Their improvement curve is where you want it."
This weekend, Blue-Green Rivals UCSB and Cal Poly will meet, but Dolan downplayed the effect it will have on the runners.
"We have a friendly rivalry," he said. "It's about as friendly as a competitive meet can get." Dolan commented on the fact that the races the first few weekends for the Gauchos will not count toward national rankings, but "You still want to win it."
In all of the offseason runs and workouts that the team has battled through, a few specific runners have shined from both the women's and the men's sides.
"Dani Moreno and Christine Cooperstein for sure, they're in the best shape of their lives," Dolan said. "For the men, Andrew Farkas, Anthony Ortolan, and Bryce Rausa have done what I've asked them to do, they're ready."
Moreno, a former Warren High Achool Athlete of the Year, ran a season best 17:37.92 in the 5k at last year's UCSB Lagoon Open. Whittier High School product Cooperstein ran a 17:42.58 in the 2012 edition of this race, her season best as well. Both will be seniors this season.
For the men, Farkas and Ortolan will be sophomores while Rausa will be a junior. The experience level may not be as high as the women's team, but the three runners are just beginning what are already promising careers.
The lofty aspirations that these five have for themselves along with all the other Division I runners at UCSB are what inspires Dolan to coach year-in-and-year-out.
"To see these athletes become more that they've ever been is special," Dolan said. "I can't help to have fun, these athletes are living the dream, they're going for it."
The race, hosted by UCSB this weekend, is one of six that the Gauchos have before they take part in Big West Championships in November. There are three separate races on Saturday: the Alumni/Community 5k at 9:30 a.m., the Women's Open 5k at 10:30 a.m., and the Men's Open 8k at 11:00 a.m.