Santa Barbara, Calif.- The Gauchos will open the 2014 Cross Country season this weekend with the annual Lagoon Race which features a community/alumni 5,000m as well as a collegiate dual with two of the top cross country teams in the Big West set to square off- Cal Poly and UCSB.
A high school section will kick off the race action at 8am. The community/alumni race will go off at 9:30am. The collegiate races will start at 10:30am with the women's section.
WHEN: Saturday, August 30th 2014
WHERE: UC Santa Barbara Campus Lagoon (Behind the UCEN)
8:00am High School girls
8:45am High school boys
9:30am Alumni/Community 5k
10:30am Women's OPEN 5k (UCSB, Cal Poly, Open)
11:00am Men's OPEN 8k (UCSB, Cal Poly, Open)
Men's Team Preview
The Gauchos gladly welcome back their top five Big West scorers from one season ago. At the 2013 Big West Cross Country Championships, on a hilly San Luis Obispo course, the UCSB men took second and saw their top three finishers crack into the top-10. Their No. 4 and No. 5 scorers also finished in the top-15, illustrating the depth the Gauchos are bringing back.
"The men's team is the deepest team I've ever had" said Head Coach Pete Dolan who is about to start his 29th cross country season at UC Santa Barbara.
Brian Guijarro will team up with Bryce Rausa and Anthony Ortolan to lead the way for the Gauchos. Guijarro, a former Big West Freshman of the Year has finished inside the top-5 at the Big West Championships four times on the track in the 5,000m and 10,000m. He qualified for the NCAA First Round in the 10,000m in 2013 and has a best of 29:38.39. In cross country, Guijarro took fifth as a freshman and sixth as a sophomore. He sits seventh on the UCSB All-Time list in the 10,000m.
Bryce Rausa placed 9th at last seasons Big West Cross Country Championship and followed up with a breakout season in the spring. He fired off an NCAA First Round qualifying performance in the 3,000m steeplechase at the Mt. Sac Relays, running 8:57.94. He took third at the Big West Championships in the 3,000m steeplechase. The versatile harrier also punched new PR's of 1:51.94 in the 800m and 3:48.91 in the 1,500m.
Anthony Ortolan finished seventh at last years Big West Cross Country Championship. He came back at the NCAA West Regional meet and ran a 31:01.4 10k PR to place 57th overall. He improved from 12th at the Big West meet as a freshman and 90th at the NCAA West Regional Meet. Ortolan was the Lagoon Meet winner one year ago.
"We have a very talented group of men who brought with them good high school times. They've developed. Now I have third, fourth and fifth years who have done their work."
After you get past the top three it starts to get interesting.
Shyan Vaziri will be heading into his senior year after a record breaking junior campaign. Starting last fall, Vaziri showed a new found strength from his amped up summer mileage and raced his way to a 12th place Big West showing. That strength met his raw speed and the showcase was on in the spring where Vaziri established a new UCSB school record in the 1,500m at 3:42.44. He also hit a new personal best in the 800m at 1:49.05. His 1,500m qualified him for the NCAA First Round where he placed 26th overall. He won 9 out of 14 races he toed the line in.
"After a record breaking track season, Shyan looks to break into the top-4. He is ready to make a big jump in cross country" said Dolan of his senior harrier.
"Monroy was our secret weapon in track. He's not a secret anymore. With his talent, he should be a top-3 guy. Farkas was injured last track season but he brings in good credentials and is a tough racer. Bright had a good freshman track season and competed well in the 10,000m. Abel is a big question mark for us but after his freshman season, he showed us that it's in there. Poston is another guy who is coming off another very successful track season. Verdin isn't proven in track yet but again, another great track season. Littooy had a great summer and it looks like he's coming into his own."
"It's never been eleven deep."
Women's Team Preview
The UCSB women also return their top-5 scorers from last years Big West Cross Country Championship. The Gauchos took third at last years Big West Championship and return 5 women who finished in the top-21. The top two returners for the Gauchos won't make things easy for their competitors as they are well versed in working together at the front of races. Dani Moreno and Christine "Coop" Cooperstein have finished within 2 spots of each other in no fewer than 12 collegiate races. Last cross country season looked like this:
Lagoon Dani 2 Coop 3
UCR Invite Dani 1 Coop 3
Big West Dani 3 Coop 4
Dani Moreno is a two-time NCAA First Round qualifier in the 10,000m on the track. She is a five-time Big West scorer and has won three Big West track medals to go with her third place finish from last years Big West Cross Country Championship. Moreno sits 9th on the UCSB 5,000m and 4th on the 10,000m All-Time UCSB list. She looks forward her senior season and credits her growth and maturity in the sport to her success:
"Just have no regrets. I have pushed myself past the red-line zone a few times in the past and I know what it's like to have balance in my life" said Moreno.
Speaking on the "red-line" zone she elaborated, "It's different for everybody. For me, it's when I feel alive. It's when you go past 100%..to 120%...to 150%. It's humbling and it's important to recognize when it's happening."
Coach Dolan describes Moreno as a "prototype Gaucho."
"Dani get's it. She has all the qualities you want, dedication, vision, team oriented and fearless."
Moreno will have an experienced Coop at her side. In total, Cooperstein has captured four top-5 Big West finishes and is a Big West bronze medalist in the 5,000m.
"We bring out the best in each other" said Moreno of her partnership with Coop.
"We each have high expectations for ourselves. The breakthrough moment for us was at UC Riverside last year when we ended up finishing 1-2. It the first time Coop took the lead from me. Some teams have two runners and they end up becoming complacent with each other. For us, were always moving forward and progressing."
This year the Big West Championsip will be held at UC Riverside on Sat. November 1st.
Joining Coop and Dani will be a host of Gauchos looking to break into the top-5. Leading the chasepack will be Maxine Goyette, last years Big West 3,000m steeplechase runner-up. Goyette finished 21st at last years Big West Cross Country Championships and was the No. 5 runner for the Gauchos on the day. She showed her strength by also adding a sixth place finish in the 5,000m at the Big West Championships. Goyette is sixth All-Time at UCSB in the 3,000m steeplechase.
"Maxine didn't have the best cross country finish last year. She bounced back on the track and had a great spring so I think last year is behind her" said Coach Dolan.
Tori Tsolis will be an equalizer for the Gauchos after having a breakthrough season on the track. Tsolis exploded onto the running scene, taking second at the Big West Championships in the 1,500m and earning a bid to the NCAA First Round. Her PR of 4:24.81 is 5th All-Time on the UCSB list. Her 800m PR of 2:09.65 is fourth All-Time.
"Tori finally had a healthy track year. She'll have to step-up in distance for us but here you have an NCAA Regional qualifier" said Dolan.
Dolan on both his teams summer training- "Hard work plus being healthy equals good season." Dolan has captured 10 Big West Team titles in cross country over his tenure as Head Coach. He has also guided teams to Big West Track titles on both the men's and women's side, making him the only active coach in the Big West to lay claim to all four team titles.
Sarah Schreck will be another Gaucho to keep an eye on. Schreck is also coming off a breakthrough season where she took a surprise second at the Big West Championships in the 10,000m. Schreck took 17th at last years Big West Championships and raced in the No. 3 spot for the Gauchos.
Bailey Miller will also be a key factor for the Gauchos. Miller was a double scorer on the track in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the Big West Championships. She took 24th at last years Big West Cross Country Championships.