SACRAMENTO, Calif - The UCSB Men's and Women's cross country teams both finished 14th Friday morning at the 2016 NCAA West Regional, led by strong races by Adam Avila and Jenna Hinkle.
Avila had a lifetime best performance to finish 19th and claim his first West All-Region honors. He covered the men's 10K in 30:04.
Hinkle put forward a very strong showing to place 31st in 20:20 for the women's 6k.
The women's squad improved from 20th last year. Both squads were the second teams to finish from the Big West Conference.
Adam Avila was the story of the day as the senior put together the finest race of his UCSB career. Placing himself right in the front pack from the beginning, Avila hung steady with the leaders.
"I felt really good out there, but I wanted to be ready for that big move that I knew that was coming" Avila reflected.
That move came right after 5k, when the pace shifted and Oregon standout Edward Cheserek broke away from the field. Avila would not waver and fought to hang on to the pack through the tough last stages of the 6.2 mile race.
"I didn't even know the splits I was hitting, I was just focused on not letting go. All I could do that last stretch was try to keep my form together as I felt the pain and lactic acid set in"
The grit paid off as Avila was rewarded with a time of 30:04 (4:50 avg/mile). His 19th place would qualify him for his first All-Region honor and was a huge jump from 84th last year.
Following Avila was another breakthrough race by a senior on the team, as Andrew Verdin became the Gaucho's 2nd runner for the first time in his cross country career. In his 10k debut, Verdin demonstrated great focus from start to finish to place 89th in 31:42.
Jackson Bright and George Baier finished closed behind as they rallied together to finish 93rd and 96th with times of 31:45 and 31:47. Rounding out the scoring was Carlos Guijarro who finished 113th in 32:12.
"Our two seniors stepped up big time and put on a great show out there" assistant coach Darius Terry told the team after the race, "It was a little disappointing to see the rest of the team struggle, but the good news is that they will all be back next year a stronger and closer team."
Top 25 West Region Men (Thomas Poston)
Top 15 Men's Teams (out of 29)Stanford 75 Portland 90 UCLA 112 Oregon 122 Washington St 143 California 188 Boise State 219 San Francisco 221 Cal Poly 223 Washington 262 San Jose St 340 Arizona State 367 UC Santa Barbara 407 Cal St Fullerton 428
Jenna Hinkle concluded an excellent junior cross country campaign with her best regional showing to date. Hinkle got out with the top women and worked hard to maintain contact throughout the race.
"The race went out pretty fast, I think we went through the first mile in 5:18 and 2 miles in around 10:45. I did my best to hold on and not give up any places" Hinkle reflected.
Hinkle's strength was apparent as she maintained her composure and kicked it in to 31st place in a fine time of 20:20 for the 3.73 mile race (5:27 avg/mile). All of her hard work this past year had paid off as this was a big jump from 116th as a sophomore.
The 2nd scorer for the Gauchos would be freshman Katie Camarena, who would would make a great comeback from conference to run a solid 21:21 to place 82nd in her debut regional meet. Sophomore Miranda Ross would follow in 92nd with 21:32 in her first regional showing as well.
The Gauchos fourth runner would be senior Kelsey O'Connell, concluding a well run XC career with 21:54 for 121st. Rounding out the scoring for the women would be freshman Celeste Wilson, clocking 22:10 to finish 144th, a great sign of things to come for the young freshman.
"I thought the women ran well out there and ended the season on a good note" stated Coach Terry, "we bounced back from conference, earned some valuable racing experience, and set ourselves up well for the future of this program."
Top 15 Women's Teams (out of 35)Stanford 71 Washington 88 San Francisco 101 Oregon 107 Portland 130 UCLA 191 Boise State Arizona State 266 California 275 Cal Poly 277 Arizona 287 Oregon State 398 Idaho 405 UC Santa Barbara 458 Cal St Fullerton 477
The NCAA West Regional Meet concludes the 2016 Gaucho cross country season. The squads will take a well-deserved break and then get back to work for the 2017 Track season. Check out photos from the race and our transition to Track & Field on the team's Facebook Twitter & Instagram.