LOS ANGELES – As the UCLA cross country team displaces the dew off the well-manicured fairways at the Brookside Golf Course this Friday morning, each harrier-like step from the athletes in blue and gold stems from a storied history.
This history, focused on the men’s side under the direction of hall of fame coach Bob Larsen, will be celebrated at the UCLA Dual at the Rose Bowl on Friday, Oct. 11. In a meet that will welcome the alumni, the teams from the 80s will be recognized in Pasadena.
Coach Larsen, a member of numerous hall of fames, spearheaded the rise of the Bruin cross country program. Larsen took over a UCLA men’s cross country program that had never won a Pac-10 title. In his first year (1979), he directed the Bruins to a third-place Pac-10 finish and 15th at the NCAA meet.
He led UCLA to two conference and NCAA District 8 titles (1980/1981) and six NCAA appearances (1979, 15th; 1980, 5th; 1981, 5th; 1982, 9th; 1983, 20th and 1985, 12th; highlighted by national fifth-place finishes in 1980 and 1981.
In 1979, Ron Cornell became the first UCLA men’s NCAA All-American. The next season, when the Bruins jumped onto the national scene as a title contender in 1980, Cornell was the Pac-10 champion and he was joined by All-Americans Dave Daniels and Steve Ortiz in that fifth place finish squad.
In 1981, UCLA again won the Pac-10 and finished fifth in the country. Jon Butler, who went on to be a three-time All-American, teamed up with Steve McCormack and Daniels to put together one of the finest seasons in UCLA men’s cross country history.
The next year in 1982, the team would finish in the top-10 in the country once again, this time ninth, led by the likes of All-Americans Butler and McCormack. Butler would also earn All-America accolades in 1985. The Butler family is still tied into the cross country team as Rachel Butler, Jon’s daughter is on the women’s squad.
This history will be celebrated as the men welcome the alumni and Cerritos College while the women host rival USC. The meet will begin with the women’s 6K at 9 a.m., followed by the men’s 8K at 9:45 a.m.