SACRAMENTO – The UCLA men’s and women’s cross country teams took home top honors once again, this time defeating a talented field at the NCAA Inter-Regional Jamboree, Friday morning at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex.
The women edged Cal Poly, 77-78, while the 12th-ranked men’s squad also downed the second place Mustangs, 54-67. Junior Kelsey Smith and sophomore Sergey Sushchickh paced the Bruins for the second time this season with third place finishes in their respective races.
Smith improved on her 5K time from the season opener, this time crossing the finish in 16:40. Junior Annie Mooney placed fifth with a time of 16:53. Junior Elle Sanders and Bronte Golick both logged top-25 finishes with Sanders placing 20th in 17:23 and Golcik crossing the line in 17:28.
Junior Meghan Marvin placed 26th with a 17:29 and rounding out the top seven for the Bruins was junior Annabel Clarke (36th, 17:40) and freshman Paige Tennison (47th, 17:50).
"Kelsey and Annie are studs,” coach Forest Braden said. “They executed the race perfectly and ran upfront in a very competitive race. They showed they can mix it up with the best in the country and will only get better from here. I was also pleased with our pack from 3-5, they ran together and worked together to pick off girls throughout the race. Without a big finish from Elle, we would not have won that race. We need to get more girls running with Elle, Bronte and Meghan for us to break through on the national scene but freshman Paige Tennison showed she is ready to step up and Annabel is usually right there so we will be alright."
Also competing for UCLA, junior Sierra Vega placed 53rd with a 17:53, sophomore Ashlee Powers made her season debut, finishing 71st in 18:08 and junior Ava Kent closely followed in 72nd in 18:08. Freshman Nicole Evans placed 91st in 18:25 and sophomore Jen Owen was 103rd with an 18:42.
"I am very proud of where these girls are at and excited to see where we can get to," Braden added. "We cannot let up though. We need to get stronger and tougher and we can compete with anyone."
Sushchickh tackled the 8K course in 23:35 to once again pace the nationally ranked men’s squad with a third place finish. Junior Daniel Herrera cracked the top-10 with a ninth place finish, crossing the line in a time of 23:52.
"We learned a lot today,” coach Braden said. “We did not run well today at all but we were still able to tough it out and get the win. I was pleased with Sergey's performance upfront, he is in a good place right now. Nick Hartle and Daniel Herrera ran well together and finished the race strong but we'll need them closer to the front to be a major threat."
Sophomore Nick Hartle stayed within a tight Bruin pack by finishing 11th with a time of 23:54 and was closely followed by senior Patrick Douglas (15th, 24:00) and senior Dustin Fay (16th, 24:07). Rounding out the Bruin top seven was freshman Michael McCabe (20th, 24:19) and senior Zack Torres (26th, 24:36).
"I was disappointed with our 1-5 spread but know we will do a much better job of that at Wisconsin," Braden explained. "Zack Torres stepped up big time and ran with a lot of heart. He has improved dramatically every week and I expect the trend to continue. He will be big for us in the post season. His race was gritty and far from perfect but he showed toughness out there that the rest of the team lacked."
Also competing for UCLA was freshman Jonah Diaz (38th, 24:47), juniors Chase Zukerman (43rd, 24:53) and Jacob Wood (44th, 24:54), sophomore Nathaniel Cushing-Murray (52nd, 25:03) and freshman Austin O’Neil (68th, 25:19).
The Bruins will host its only meet of the season as it prepares for the UCLA Double Dual on Friday, Oct. 11. The women will host USC and the men will race the alumni and Cerritos Junior College.