SPOKANE, Wash. -
The UC San Diego cross country teams saw their season come to a close on Saturday after neither squad was able to qualify for the NCAA National Championships.
The Triton women finished eighth out of 24 teams, while the men placed ninth in a 17-team field at the NCAA Division II West Regional Championships at Plantes Ferry Regional Park in Spokane, Wash. The top four teams and two top individuals on non-qualifying teams in each race will return to Spokane for the national meet on November 19.
After finishing seventh at the CCAA Championships in Santa Rosa two weeks ago, sophomore Chia Chang had another tremendous outing on Saturday, placing eighth overall to lead the way for UCSD in the women's race. The Yorba Linda native clocked in with a final time of 21:46 on the 6k course and earned All-West Region accolades with her performance.
Chang just missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships on the same course in two weeks as she was the third individual from a non-qualifying team to complete the course.
Freshman Michelle Le Roux was the next runner to cross the finish line for the Tritons, placing 29th overall at 22:28. Dani Brabender, Alia Bales and Aaryn Kobayashi were the final three scorers for UCSD on the day, finishing in 44th, 72nd and 77th place, respectively. Brabender posted a final time of 22:57, while Bales came in at 23:40 and Kobayashi finished in 23:47.
"Our women made a huge improvement from last year's meet, moving up six places in the standings," head coach Nate Garcia said. "Chia put together a complete performance and just missed qualifying for nationals and for Michelle to finish in the top-30 as a freshman was a tremendous accomplishment."
Led by individual winner Ruth Keino (20:51), Alaska Anchorage won the West Regional title for the third year in a row with a total of 27 points. The Seawolves had five runners finish in the top 12 to hold off second place Chico State by 39 points. The Wildcats had five of the top 20 finishers and finished with 66 points. Both squads will represent the West Region in the NCAA Championships in two weeks.
Western Washington and Alaska Fairbanks also qualified for the national meet after finishing third and fourth, respectively. WWU tallied 148 points, while Fairbanks finished with 164 points.
On the men's side, junior Matt Lenehan paced the Tritons once again, finishing 39th overall with a 10k time of 32:37. Lenehan finished two spots in front of teammate Kellen Levy, who wrapped up at 32:41 to claim 41st place.
John Svet posted the next-best finish for UCSD, placing 53rd at 32:55, while Alex Corliss and Ben Rich rounded out the scoring for the Tritons with respective times of 33:14 and 33:46. Corliss' time was good enough for 59th place, while Rich was the 73rd runner across the line on the day.
"We saw some good individual improvement from last year in the men's race as several of our guys were able to move up within the region," Garcia continued. "We ran well today, but we didn't perform well enough to finish higher in a very competitive West Regional field."
Alaska Anchorage won the men's competition as well, claiming its second consecutive West Regional Championship. The Seawolves claimed five of the first 13 spots and finished with 37 points overall. AAU's Micah Chelimo was the top individual finisher, completing the course with a final time of 30:19.
Chico State was a very close second, recording 39 points with four runners finishing in the top 10. Western Oregon finished third with 126 points, while Western Washington tallied 128 points to finish fourth.
With 10 of UCSD's 14 participants in Saturday's race scheduled to return in 2012, the future appears to be very bright for the Triton cross country program.
"We made some really good strides with the group this year," Garcia concluded. "We got some great efforts from our seniors and we'll really miss them next year, but we also have some really promising youngsters who did a great job learning what it takes to be successful at the collegiate level. We'll be in great shape heading into next year."