RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Questionable air quality from the fires in Northern California would lead the UC Santa Barbara cross country teams to a last minute change in destination to Riverside for the Highlander Invitational. The Gaucho women would take advantage of this opportunity to see how well they stacked against conference rivals Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside and they would not disappoint, capturing the team title in a fifteen team field with all five scorers finishing in the top 20 out of 138 runners. The men's team would find themselves struggling with the change in venue, taking third overall out of twelve teams, losing to Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine in the process.
Redshirt freshman Isaiah Lozano would find himself leading the men's team once again, going out with the leaders right from the gun and finishing 3rd overall with a six kilometer time of 17:58.9. Not too far behind would be the senior duo of Patrick Bourke and George Baier, taking 10th and 12th respectively with times of 18:09.5 and 18:12.2. True freshman Brian Schulz and James Douglass would finish off the scoring in 26th and 27th in 18:31.1 and 18:31.7.
"For the guys, I wish they could've done better," Head Coach Pete Dolan solemnly remarked. "It was a surprise to switch from eight kilometers to six at the last minute, so I can excuse some of our performances. I am concerned however heading into the conference championships."
Coach Dolan would go on to add that, "There's some positive in today's performance. Isaiah and Bourke did well, and Jackson Bright [who was just a second off Brian and James] is coming back. Third place is still a respectable result. Expectations were just a little higher."
Senior Jenna Hinkle would take the reigns once again for the ladies, shadowing the lead group for the first two miles and making a solid bid for home shortly after. Hinkle would not be contested after her break from the pack, taking the win convincingly with a five kilometer time of 16:48.0. Katie Camarena would follow suit afterwards, slowly making her way through the field and overtaking six runners in the last mile alone, taking 4th overall in 17:23.0. Celeste Wilson would be the surprise third scorer after Camarena in 13th in 17:50.7, improving by over 17 seconds when she ran the open five kilometer race at the UC Riverside Invitational less than a month ago. Finishing right behind her would be Emily Lopez bouncing back from her subpar performance at the Bill Dellinger Invitational to take 14th in 17:54.4. Isa Marshall would be the final scorer on the day in 18th in a time of 18:06.9.
"The women's team showed some depth today," said Coach Dolan. "Riverside looked like they took control early but they couldn't hold it. Celeste and Isa had their best races of the year so far today."
Coach Dolan would finish his thoughts with a sign of gratitude towards the meet organizers. "The air quality was a real concern up north. We're very grateful for the opportunity given to us by Riverside to compete at their meet this weekend."
With the regular season all wrapped up, the Gauchos will wait in anticipation to take to the Ag/Ops Course one last time this season with the 2017 Big West Conference Championships coming up in two weeks time.