RIVERSIDE, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara Cross Country would clash against some well fortified fields this past Saturday at the 2019 Big West Conference Cross Country Championship held on the traditional Ag/Ops Course of the UC Riverside campus. The women would end up finishing fourth overall in the women's 6k with 111 team points behind a huge scramble between eventual winners Cal State Fullerton (44 points), 2018 Champions Cal Poly (50 points), and UC Davis (51 points). The men would finish a hotly contested third place with 67 points behind defending champions Cal Poly, taking another team title for the fourth year in a row (44 points), and Cal State Fullerton in second (53 points).
Cal State Fullerton 44
Cal Poly 50
UC Davis 51
UC Santa Barbara 111
UC Irvine 140
UC Riverside 182
Long Beach State 204
Cal State Northridge 221
With temperatures slowly creeping up to the mid-70s by race time, a bright and sunny day on the Ag/Ops Course would welcome a legion of women vying for position at the start of the race with Fullerton, Cal Poly, and UC Davis all fortifying their packs with a fairly wide open conference title up for grabs. Junior Astrid Rosvall would slot herself right in the thick of things with a line of blue gold, including junior Marisa Rodriguez, sophomore Emma Overell, redshirt sophomore and team captain Jasmine Rippey, junior Maddie Meade, and freshman Lauren Lum, all settling behind the main cluster of women at the front. With the front group coming through the first mile just around 5:20, it was going to be a matter of hanging on for dear life, seeing who could outlast such a torrid pace from start to finish.
Emerging from the backside of the course running alongside the irrigation canals past 1.5 miles, UC Davis would make an early bid for team scoring with Eva Goodison, Sierra Atkins, and Emma Hicken taking the first three spots, with Rosvall, Fullerton's Trinity Ruelas and Samantha Huerta, and Cal Poly's Miranda Daschian and Sierra Brill highlighting the leading charge. As they hit the two mile mark around 11:04, barely a second separated the top fifteen as they traversed the lower half of the course preparing to head back uphill to the citrus groves for mile three. Santa Barbara's Rodriguez would be handing just off the first group with Lum, Overell, and Rippey all coming through two miles in 11:19.
Past the third mile, defending champion Daschian would take the lead and slowly separate from the lead group with Huerta in tow, Rosvall content to stay with the newly established second pack as the race was coming to a close. Rounding the final turn past the towering dirt hill and into the finishing chute, Daschian would pull away from Huerta to defend her conference title in 20:20.7 to win by five seconds, with Fullerton putting three runners in the top ten to win their first women's title in history for cross country. Rosvall would earn Big West All-Conference Honors for the second time in her career by finishing seventh overall in 20:53.8, her third fastest time over 6k and her fastest time on the Riverside course by two seconds. Overell would be the second gaucho entering the chute in 21st with a personal best time of 21:34.3. Next would be team captain Rippey finishing 26th in a personal best clocking of 21:46.4 with Lum right behind in 27th, also in a personal best with a time of 21:50.0. Lastly, Rodriguez, who would unfortunately fade over the course of the last mile, would still come through as the final scorer in 31st with a time of 21:59.0, her second fastest 6k clocking as a Gaucho.
"Going into the race, third or fourth was the likely call," according to distance coach Darius Terry. "A win or even second was on the table, but the conference is just so strong on the women's side this year. The ladies put themselves in a position for the best possible result they could get, and three of our top five ended up with personal bests. Can't be too disappointed in that."
Cal Poly 47
Cal State Fullerton 53
UC Santa Barbara 67
UC Riverside 92
UC Davis 98
Long Beach State 168
UC Irvine 208
Cal State Northridge 242
The men's race would follow in a similar fashion to the women, taking the race out hard with the main title contenders all bunching up to the head of the pack with a mix of Cal Poly, Fullerton, and Santa Barbara all bidding for control of the pace. Barely past the half mile mark, the two individual race favorites would begin to break away, with Cal Poly's Jake Ritter taking the lead and Santa Barbara's own junior and co-captain Nick Randazzo keying off Ritter's shoulder. The two Big West compatriots would roll through the first mile in an unprecedented 4:30, the rest of the pack about five seconds behind. Juniors Yousef Baddour and Brian Schulz would headline the trailing group along with Cal Poly's John Bennet and Elias Opsahl and Fullerton's Jacob Smith and Erik Gonzalez.
Past the two mile mark, Ritter and Randazzo would come through two miles in 9:18, still trudging on with the unbelievable pace they set at the start of the race with Baddour, Schulz, and company all coming through in 9:26. Graduate student Raymond Boffman would be moving through the second pack along with redshirt senior and co-captain Daniel Mountcastle in 9:43, both feeling the effects of the hot early pace already along with the rest of the field. Eventually, Ritter would slowly begin to inch away from Randazzo, pulling away even further back through the citrus groves heading into mile three. Schulz would begin to fall off the main chase pack, leaving Baddour to fend for himself with Mountcastle also beginning to fade in the third pack. A young Manan Vats would begin to make his bid through the field in the meantime, catching all the way up to Boffman as they headed to the backend of the course away from the spectators.
Past the towering hill and into the chute, Ritter would defend his title in dominant fashion with a 23:43.6, getting the best of Randazzo this time around who would finish a clear second in 24:26.5, improving by fifteen places from 2018's conference meet and earning his first Big West All-Conference honors for cross country. Yousef Baddour would earn his second All-Conference finish in cross by finishing ninth overall in 24:57.8, just losing contact with Smith, Gonzalez, and Bennett in the last mile. A tiring Schulz would still hang on for the Gauchos' third scoring position in fifteenth with a time of 25:13.5, while Vats and Boffman would finish together to conclude Santa Barbara's scorecard in 20th and 21st in respective times of 25:28.6 and 25:30.4.
"The men didn't have a good performance," coach Terry remarked. "Nick lost to the better runner on the day so I'm proud of him fighting for the win. Baddour also had a good day getting into the top ten. The rest of the squad didn't have the performance they wanted, and I know they're not happy with today's results, but I know they're determined to make up for it at regionals."
With another conference championship concluded, the Gauchos will now look forward to facing the rest of the west at the NCAA West Regional Meet in Colfax, Washington on November 15th. Check back at UCSBGauchos.com for future coverage and follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for additional photos and news.