Gaucho Perspective: Cross Country NCAA Regional Meet Preview
Coming off a pair of top-3 finishes at the Big West Championships, The UC Santa Barbara Men's and Women's Cross Country Teams will head to Sacramento on Friday for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
The NCAA Division 1 Regional format takes place in nine different sites across the country. UC Santa Barbara is a part of the West Region, as is the rest of the Big West Conference. The meet will be held at the Haggin Oaks Golf Course Complex and will be hosted by Sacramento State. The men's 10k will start at 10:30am and the women's 6k will follow at 11:45am.
How to qualify for the NCAA Championship: 31 teams will advance to the Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana on Saturday, November 23rd. The top two in each region will move on as well as 13 squads with at-large bids. The at-large bids are based on regional placing as well as a series of in-season selection criteria. 38 individuals from teams not qualified will also move on. The top four in each region as well as two at-large bids will advance as long as they are coming through the finish line in the top 25 at their respective regional site.
Regular Season Recap: After a successful regular season that culminated with a pair of top three finishes at the Big West Championships the Gauchos will be back in action in Sacramento- a course they have already experienced success on. At the Regional Preview at Haggin Oaks, the UCSB men recorded a third place team showing and the women finished seventh overall. At the Big West Championships, Dani Moreno and Christine Cooperstein captured 3rd and 4th place for the Gaucho women. On the men's side, Brian Guijarro, Anthony Ortolan and Bryce Rausa combined to take 6th, 7th and 9th place rounding out the top ten finishers for the Gauchos.
Coach Dolans Take:
Men: "They haven't run as fast as they know they can. And that is eating at them."
Women: "We have a great front three line-up. We need some heroics in fourth and fifth if we're going to surprise anyone."
The UCSB Cross Country and Track and Field programs have many accomplished student athletes who are pursuing a wide range of degrees from Art History to Computer Engineering to Zoology. For our regional preview we'd like to spotlight our students by letting them tell the story. The men we interviewed were Anthony Ortolan, Bryce Rausa and Shyan Vaziri. The women were Dani Moreno, Christine Cooperstein and Maxine Goyette.
What is your individual strategy this weekend and what do you need to do to have a successful race?
Anthony Ortolan: My race strategy is to go out hard and position myself in the top twenty-five, then settle in and respond to any surges that happen, and hopefully I'll be in a good position with a mile to go and be able to have a very strong finish. In order to have a successful race I'm going to have to be tough. Everyone in the field is fast and what is going to make the difference is how far people can push themselves.
Bryce Rausa: The race strategy for me this weekend is to get out hard (top 40 or so) and settle in there for the first half of the race. If everything goes right, the last 2 to 3 miles I plan on picking people off and making my way into the top 30 area. To help, I have to keep my teammates (Guijarro and Ortolan) in sight and use them as a way to pull myself through the race. If I feel good then, I plan on running with them and pick off as many spots as I can to help put our team in the best possible spot to do well and maybe snag a nationals spot.
Shyan Vaziri: I plan on going out fast. Asserting myself in the top 50 from the start of the race will be critical because moving up positions in a race this large can become a nightmare if you're starting out in 200th place.
Dani Moreno: My race strategy is to get out from the gun , which will be a full out sprint considering it's regionals, and to respond to each surge that is put out by that 6-12 place pack. If I can hold on through those there's no reason I can't finish the race as fast as I started. It's not like the pain is going to be any worse from that point on. Breaking points are crucial so it will be important to be in position when the breaks happen as well.
Go out and run with the front pack and put myself through as much pain as I can handle- then get past that. These are the ones that I thrive off of. Qualifying for nationals is something that I've wanted for the last three years.
Coop: I'm in the best shape of my life. My strategy is to exploit that fitness and celebrate all of the hard work I've done by running the best race of my life. I think the biggest thing for me this weekend is going to be getting a good, fast start and pulling all of the tricks out of the bag during the second half of the race.
Maxine Goyette: My strategy for this weekend is just to go out there and race hard. I didn't have the best race at conference, so I really want to show everyone what I can do. Training has been really good all season, and I am looking forward for everyone else to see that.
What is our team strategy and what did we learn from conference?
Anthony Ortolan: Our team strategy is to go out and keep doing what we've done all season. This men's team has been consistent since summer and has worked really hard to put ourselves in a position to finish really well. We learned at conference that our team is very tough and that we can all rely on each other to perform when it counts.
Bryce Rausa: The team strategy is pack run and put ourselves in the position to do well from the beginning. There are a ton of people in the race so if we as a team do not get out from the gun then the amount of work to try and get up further into the race will be too much. We all need to get out hard and run tough which we know we can do. We are confident and are ready to throw down. We all know we are not done and still have the chance to pull something big off so there is no holding back. We all put in a ton of work over the summer and had a pretty good year so if we just go out and do what we have been doing then we will be fine. Conference was definitely a wake-up call for us. Even though we were supposed to get second, we did so in an ugly fashion. We know we are capable of way more and can perform way better than what we did on conference day. Going into the race with almost everyone healthy we are confident in our ability to do well.
Shyan Vaziri: We're a young team that consists of mostly sophomores and freshmen. It took a ton of hard work this summer for us to improve to the level that we have gotten to this year. But even though we placed second at conference, it wasn't a performance that we were entirely pleased with. We want to be a great team, and in order to be a great team we need to seize every opportunity to make a name for ourselves. This Friday at regionals we'll get a chance to go up against some nationally ranked opponents, and we intend to make our presence known at this meet.
Dani Moreno: Team strategy is to race well and get a higher placing than our ranking. There are a few teams that have beaten us earlier this season I would definitely like to beat. It's always nice to race the teams from our conference because they are familiar and it gives us a good idea of how we did.
Coop: As a team we were disappointed with a third place finish at conference and are seeing this race as a chance for redemption. The key for the women's team as a whole is going to be keeping the nerves under control and doing what we've trained all season to do.
Maxine Goyette: Our race strategy is to do the best we can and not leave anything out there.
Already having raced on the course, describe the setting and how the course layout is.
Anthony Ortolan: The course is flat and fast with big sweeping turns, lined with large pine trees, and short well maintained grass. It's a great spectator course as we will make three loops around before finishing along an 800 meter straightaway.
Bryce Rausa: The course itself is great. I personally love it and our team as a whole does also. It's a very flat golf course and the grass is hard and well groomed which is good because it allows for an efficient stride and will not take too much energy out of our legs. For the guys we have to do 3 loops and majority of it is spectator friendly, so there will be people throughout the course. However, there is one part of the course (the furthest point from the finish) where there are pretty much no spectators. That part in my opinion is the most important. It's a good spot to surge and make moves to get momentum before heading back into the crowd.
Dani Moreno: The course is on a flat grassy golf course. It's two big loops and the last half mile is a long straight away to the finish. Everyone should expect for the race to be very fast, especially in comparison to the mountains we raced at conference.
Coop: The regionals course is great! As always, it's a grass course consisting of 2 3000 meter loops. The course is fast with pretty compact grass and slight rolling hills. It'll be fun!
Maxine Goyette: The course is really fast. A few short inclines and declines, but overall flat. It is on a golf course, but the grass is super short and relatively hard. For the 6k we will do two big loops around the course.
Pushing your body over a 10,000m or 6,000m distance in a cross country race is unlike almost any other sport- and there are no time outs. It has a pain threshold that is hard to describe. Describe it.
Anthony Ortolan: During cross country when the pain sets in that's what can make or break a race for you. Your lungs are gasping, heart pounding, legs burning, but if you can push through it and convince yourself that you're strong enough to keep going you're going to have a satisfying race.
Bryce Rausa: It's hard to put in words the pain that I experience when I race because it's nothing that I ever feel when doing something else. It's a feeling that really tests my limits and tests how tough I really am. However it's a pain that can be easy overcome if I am there mentally. The mind can do amazing things and if I just stay mentally in it, I know I can hold off that pain until my body can't take it anymore. It's the hardest part of the sport but those who can triumph over it are the ones who succeed and I plan on succeeding!
I will go through any amount of pain for my team because I know they will do the same for me. Having that feeling allows me to go beyond what I think I can handle and push myself to limits I can't even imagine. I love my team so knowing that they are hurting but still pushing makes it easier to race and want to do well for them.
Shyan Vaziri: Pain in a cross country race sets in gradually and becomes more and more intense with every step you take. Those who can tolerate pain better usually race better. Knowing that I'm running with a UCSB logo on my chest gives me a pretty good reason to put myself through as much pain as I can.
Dani Moreno: Race pain is a combination of physical and emotional pain. If you've ever watched one of those videos of a plane hitting the sound barrier it kinda feels like that. You hit this wall that isn't there and you keep pushing through. But what most people don't know is it's not just one wall but a few. As the race develops, if it's a great one, you hit each wall and keep going. For me it makes me feel more alive. What makes race pain different than any other pain is that it's always different. You never go into any race feeling the same and so the pain in every race is different. It's in the light that you control how much pain you want to endure and those who are willing to experience more normally are those who end up on top. I think how much race pain an individual can endure determines how successful of a runner can be. Like most, an athlete says your performance is more mental than physical and for me racing has always been the epitome of this saying.
Coop: Pain in the middle of a race feels like tight lungs and exacerbated hips and quads. It feels like I'm fighting a force field that's shoving me into a bucket.
Maxine Goyette: I always forget how bad racing hurts until it sets in during the race. Everything tightens up and feels heavy and breathing gets all over the place. Sometimes when it hurts really bad you can get negative thoughts, want to slow down, or say to yourself "I'll get that girl later". But you have to remember why you are putting yourself through all the pain and think of your goals and teammates. Everyone around you is also hurting just as bad, so you have to be the toughest one out there.