BILLINGS, Mont. - The 11th-ranked University of California San Diego men’s cross country team fell one place shy of qualifying for the NCAA Championships as a team, finishing sixth at the NCAA West Regionals, hosted by Montana State Billings Saturday at Amend Park. The Triton women concluded their season with a ninth place finish.
“Both teams fought really hard,” said head coach Nate Garcia. “We were hopeful that we would be able to advance as a team, but this is an incredibly tough region.”
Although the UCSD men did not qualify as a team, seniors Tareq Alwafai and Brendan Gee (Rancho Bernardo/Rancho Bernardo HS) individually punched their tickets to the national meet by virtue of being two of the first three finishers not already on a team going to the NCAA Championships. Alwafai was seventh out of 168 runners, finishing the 10-kilometer course in 30:09.47. Gee placed 10th with a time of 30:30.87. By virtue of finishing in the top 25, Gee and Alwafai both received All-West Region honors.
Sophomores Aren Johnson (San Diego/Army and Navy Academy) and Samuel Blake were next at 41st (31:21.59) and 46th (31:26.63) place, respectively. Senior Terrence Luevano rounded out the scorers with a 59th place finish at 31:57.09. Chico State’s William Reyes was the individual winner with a time of 29:45.16.
The Tritons came in sixth place as a team with 163 points. No. 4 Chico State took first with 45 points. No. 6 Alaska Anchorage was second with 81 and No. 9 Cal Poly Pomona took third with 90. Academy of Art and No. 16 California Baptist took the final two qualifying spots for the NCAA Championships, each scoring 156 points.
The duo of senior Ella Verhees (San Diego/Point Loma HS) and sophomore Karina Carstens led UCSD on the women’s side, coming in next to each other with 40th (22:31.03) and 41st (22:31.07) place finishes. Junior Kristin Semancsin (San Diego/Valhalla HS) was the next Triton finisher with a 62nd place effort at 22:53.39.
Juniors Merin Arft (87th/23:14.93) and Skylar Thiel (88th/23:15.31) finished consecutively to finish the scoring for UCSD. Cal State San Bernardino’s Laura Aceves was the individual winner, crossing the finish line in 20:55.95.
The Tritons took ninth with 318 points. No. 7 Chico State took first with 70 points. No. 16 Simon Fraser (103 points), No. 11 Alaska Anchorage (111) No. 18 Point Loma (124), No. 23 Cal Poly Pomona (164) and No. 9 California Baptist (185) rounded out the top-six teams going to the NCAA Championships.
Gee and Alwafai will have two weeks off before the NCAA Championships on Saturday, Nov. 19 in St. Leo, Fla.