LOS ANGELES – The UCLA cross country team will open the 2013 season at the Mustang Challenge on Saturday, Sept. 21. The event will be held at Central Park in Santa Clarita, Calif., with the women’s 5K slated to start at 8:15 a.m., and the men’s 8K scheduled for a 9 a.m. start.
"I'm excited to see our teams in action this weekend at the Mustang Challenge,” Mike Maynard, UCLA Director of Track and Field and Cross Country said. “Our first cross country competition in Reno was cancelled due to the smoke from the fires in Yosemite. So this is actually the first time we will get to see everyone in action, outside of our training. While not everyone is racing yet, it will be a good early season indicator of where we are at with regard to our training."
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams are ranked in the USTFCCCA week one (Sept. 16) regional polls. The men currently reside in second in the West Region while the women check in at 10th in the region. The men are also currently ranked 14th in the country.
"We are excited to finally get the opportunity to race and test our fitness," UCLA distance coach Forest Braden said. "Both teams have had a great preseason, highlighted by a tremendous block of training in Mammoth Lakes, and now we just want to compete. We are running a women's team that is loaded with California talent and several from the Santa Clarita area, so it will be fun for them to run in front of family and friends. Our men's team is excited to build on the success from last year and this race gets it all started for us."
The event, hosted by The Master’s College, features 24 teams across all NCAA and NAIA divisions, including four division I squads. LMU will be bringing the ninth-ranked women’s squad and a 12th-ranked men’s team in the West Region to Central Park. The other division I teams includes the Cal State Bakersfield women, and both squads from Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine.
After one of the best cross country seasons in the past 10 years, the Bruin women look to build on that success this fall. With four of the top seven athletes returning and a host of newcomers joining the team, another break out season could be on the horizon.
With the graduation of team captain and front runner Katja Goldring, the Bruin women will look to three veterans to lead the squad this season; juniors Bronte Golick and Annie Mooney were top-5 runners for the Bruins last season and after breakout track seasons last spring, are primed to step up for a successful fall campaign.
Another top returner is redshirt junior Kelsey Smith. Smith recorded a big personal best in the 5000 meters on the track last spring and brings experience and toughness to the squad. Jen Owen and Lyndsey Mull also return from the Bruin’s Pac 12 team that placed sixth at the conference championships. Also look for veterans Sierra Vega, Meghan Marvin and Caitlin Schmitt to make a big impact throughout the season.
Bruin newcomers Paige Tennison and Ashlee Powers are ones to watch this season as well. Both athletes hail from nearby Orange County with Tennison competing at Newport Harbor and Powers running for powerhouse Corona Del Mar. Tennison was one of the top prep runners in California last season and has the talent to make an immediate impact in the top-7 as a freshmen. Powers transferred from Southern Methodist University where she placed 17th at the NCAA South Central Regional Championships as a freshman. Other Bruin freshmen to keep an eye on are Sabrina Seay (Mt Carmel HS) and Emily Scharmann (Tesoro HS).
The Bruin men are coming off of one of the most successful campaigns in the history of the program after placing third at the West Region Championships and 13th at the NCAA Championships last season.
The Bruin men return seven of their top eight including, All-American Lane Werley and All-West Region placers Nohe Lema and Dustin Fay. Redshirt sophomores Shayne Collins, Nathaniel Cushing-Murray and Sergey Sushchikh are expected to make major contributions as well as seniors Zack Torres and Patrick Douglas. Daniel Herrera and Jacob Wood both return this season with national championship experience. Herrera was fourth on the team at the NCAA meet in Louisville and is back for his redshirt junior season after a great track season in the spring. Adding to this deep team will be consistent top-5 man Chase Zukerman and middle distance ace Nick Hartle.
Several Bruins will make their cross country debut this season including, Ferdinand Edman, Michael McCabe, Jonah Diaz and Austin O’Neil. All four are dynamic athletes who could be immediate scorers for the team.
Next Time Out
The Bruins will return to the trail on Friday, Oct. 4, at the NCAA Preview held on the Haggin Oaks Golf Course in Sacramento.