Although the race won't have much effect on national rankings, UCSB Cross Country Coach Peter Dolan emphasized just how much the Riverside Invitational means to his team.
"Every race is important, they all count," Dolan said. "I've hyped this race, we really need to go for it Saturday and come together as a team."
At the UC Riverside Invitational last year, UCSB's men's team finished in first place while the women came in fourth, impressive performances that Dolan hopes to build off of this year.
"We have a shot to win both races this year in Riverside," he said. "I've given the team the green light, I'm excited to see how they respond."
As a result of the grueling nature of the cross country season and the need to be in top form for NCAA Regionals, every opportunity to race against competition is valued.
"It can be taxing for them to give it their all for 5K or 6K races on the women's side and 8K races for the men," Dolan said. "We can really only race every other week, so they're all important."
The Gaucho runners have taken strides forward even from the Lagoon Run just two weeks ago. The team returned from its high altitude training camp earlier this week.
"Our progress is going along as I hoped, which is saying something," Dolan said. "Good workouts and good practices at training camp."
Coming off of the Cal Poly Duel/Lagoon Run, the usual suspects are pacing the women's program while a new leader has emerged for the men.
"We rely on Coop (Christine Cooperstein) and (Dani) Moreno to carry us," he said. "Anthony Ortolan made a big jump for the men, moving into our number one spot after winning the last race."
The weather forecast calls for hot temperatures in Riverside Saturday, so the races will get started bright and early. The women will run a 6k race at 7:30 a.m., and at 8:00 a.m. the men will get their 8k trek under way. Both races are on the UCR Agricultural Operations Course.