Photo by: Derrick Tuskan

Ten Freshmen, Two Transfers Make Immediate Impact for Tritons

UC San Diego

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LA JOLLA, Calif. – The University of California San Diego men’s and women’s cross country teams are proud to shed light on 10 freshmen and two transfers who have joined the team for the 2019 season. 

The freshman women include Caitlin Billman, Ashley Faller, Leila Keyvan, Sarah Meng, Samantha Rocke and Isabelle Shepherd. Gabriel Reuter, Jonathan Rodriguez, Nicco Pompili, and Mark Pizza make up the rookie class on the men’s side. The first-year Tritons are all from California. 

The transfers, Sidney Lodovico-Hendricks and Andrew Thomas, come to La Jolla from Rochester and Washington, respectively. 

The 12 new runners have made an impact for the Tritons early on. The women most recently placed first in the Cal State San Marcos Cougar Challenge, while the men finished third (Sept. 13). Additionally, at the Biola Invite, the women came in second and the men wound up in fourth (Sept. 7). 

Caitlin Billman
Hometown: Murrieta, Calif.
Previous School:Murrieta Valley High School

  • First Team All-League as a junior and senior
  • Two Time Nike Desert Twilight Champion

COACH GARCIA ON BILLMAN:
"We are really excited about bringing Caitlin’s talents to the group and look forward to continuing to maximize her potential throughout her career at UC San Diego.  She is used to facing tough competition and always seems to rise to the occasion.” 

Ashley Faller
Hometown: Fountain Valley, Calif.
Previous School: Fountain Valley High School

  • 2018 CIF-State Cross Country Championship Qualifier
  • Sunset League Finals Runner-Up as a junior and senior 

COACH GARCIA ON FALLER:
“With Ashley’s strength and experience in both cross country and track, we are confident that she is going to make an immediate positive impact on our women’s team.  Her strength in the longer races will suit her well over the 6K distance.”

Leila Keyvan
Hometown: Dana Hills, Calif.
Previous School: Dana Hills High School

  • 2016 and 2017 CIF-State Cross Country Championship Qualifier

COACH GARCIA ON KEYVAN:
“Leila is a very strong runner who worked her way through a few coaching changes in high school which is always tricky. Her flexibility and ability to perform in a variety of situations means that she will be able to make a transition into our program.”

Sarah Meng
Hometown: Dana Hills, Calif.
Previous School: Dana Hills High School

  • 2016 and 2017 CIF-State Cross Country Championship Qualifier

COACH GARCIA ON MENG:
“We were happy to be able to add more Dana Hills student-athletes onto our squad. Runners coming from their program have had a history of transitioning well into our training and ultimately succeeding in our program.  Sarah looks to be no exception to this trend."

Isabelle Shepherd
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
Previous School: University City High School

  • Four-time CIF-State Cross Country Championship Qualifier  

COACH GARCIA ON SHEPHERD:
“We love adding local talent to our program and are looking forward to the contributions Isabelle is going to bring to our women’s team.  Isabelle has great speed on the track but is also proving to be more than capable at handling the 6K cross country distance.

Samantha Rocke
Hometown: Anaheim, Calif.
Previous School: Esperanza High School 

  • Third place finish at CIF-Southern Section Division III Cross Country Finals as a senior

COACH GARCIA ON ROCKE:
“We are really excited to see what Sam can accomplish throughout her time in our program. She has made significant strides over her 4 years in high school and we are confident that she will continue to improve in this environment.  Her ability in the longer distances will make her an integral part of our overall success.”

Sidney Lodovico-Hendricks
Hometown: Pasadena, Calif. 
Previous School: Rochester

  • NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship Qualifier 

COACH GARCIA ON LODOVICO-HENDRICKS:
“Sidney came to us from University of Rochester where she helped lead her team to an NCAA Division III Championship bid. She is an individual who will fit in well with our team culture and the goals we are striving to accomplish.” 

Gabriel Reuter
Hometown: San Anselmo, Calif.
Previous School: Sir Francis Drake High School 

  • Three-time CIF-State Cross Country Championship Qualifier 

COACH GARCIA ON REUTER:
“Gabe is a very talented runner who was a key leader of his team through his high school career.  We are confident that he will be able to make an immediate positive impact on our team.”

Jonathan Rodriguez
Hometown: La Mesa, Calif.
Previous School: Grossmont High School

  • 2017 and 2018 CIF-State Cross Country Championship Qualifier 

COACH GARCIA ON RODRIGUEZ:
“Jonathan comes to us after finishing his high school career as one of the top seniors in San Diego.  He showed great success in cross country and on the track and is someone that we anticipate being strong in the longer distance races for us.”

Nicco Pompili
Hometown: 
San Anselmo, Calif.
Previous School: Sir Francis Drake High School

  • Four-time CIF-State Cross Country Championship Qualifier 

COACH GARCIA ON POMPILI:
“Nicco is an individual with great range.  A standout in the middle-distance events on the track, Nicco was also a key member of the Drake state cross country qualifying team.  Someone with as much talent as Nicco will work well in our program.”

Mark Pizza
Hometown: Camarillo, Calif.
Previous School: Adolfo Camarillo High School 

COACH GARCIA ON PIZZA:
“Mark navigated the tough process of walking-on to the team.  He put in a great summer of training and came in ready to perform. His heart, his effort, and his talent are going to make him a really tough competitor for us.”

Andrew Thomas
Hometown: Seattle, Wash. 
Previous School: Washington

  • Two-time CIF-State Track Championship Qualifier 

COACH GARCIA ON THOMAS:
“Andrew is extremely talented and we feel very fortunate to add him to our roster.  He brings with him Division I experience from his time in the PAC-12 which will help lead our guys into the transition.  He hasn’t run cross country in a few year years but already we see him getting a feel for it.”


The team is set to compete in the Capital Cross Challenge in Sacramento next Saturday, Sept. 28. 

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country.  The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference.  UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent.  A total of 82 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 37 have earned prestigious NCAA Post Graduate Scholarships.  In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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