For the first time in 15 years, the UC San Diego Cross Country team will be under new leadership in 2007 as it looks to improve on its NCAA West Regional finish from last year (5th on the men’s side, 3rd on the women’s) of a year ago. New Head Coach Nate Garcia takes the helm following the unexpected retirement of Ted Van Arsdale in July. Garcia has been associated with UCSD for 10 years, the first five as a student-athlete and the last five as an assistant with both the cross country and track & field programs. Garcia recently took time to discuss the upcoming season, which begins with a dual meet against Point Loma on August 25.
Q- Did the retirement of Ted Van Arsdale come as a surprise to you?
GARCIA- I knew that Ted had, and continues to have, a great love for UCSD, the athletic department, and this program so part of me couldn’t have ever imagined this University without Ted, but everyone has to make decisions that are best for us and our family. I didn’t expect it, but I understand it.
Q- As the new head coach, what type of coaching will you will take from what Ted did, and what new things can the student-athletes expect?
GARCIA- The bulk of my experiences in the sport of running have come alongside so his influence has shaped the way that I look at the sport of Cross Country. Ted has shown me the right way to approach situations and how to run a team. All that being said Ted and I are different individuals and we each have ideas about how to get the most out of our athletes. While the framework of what has made this program so successful will remain in place I will look to bring some new approaches to help get us to the next level.
Q- What is the biggest transition going from assistant to head coach?
GARCIA- Without doubt it’s the fact that all of a sudden I am the final decision-maker. I no longer can look across the office and toss a tough situation to Ted.
Q- Has UCSD’s home course changed much since last year?
GARCIA- The course itself is basically the same. The grounds guys do an amazing job of keeping our course one of the best in California. The men this year will be running a 10k at the Triton Classic which is a first but the trails will all be ones used for the 8k course.
Q- What are a few team goals you have set for this year’s squad?
GARCIA- Our primary goal is always to represent the University, Athletic Department, and ourselves well. Specifically, both squads look to improve on their finishes from last year. The Men moved up two spots last year in the region to finish 5th and we are anxious to improve on that. The women finished 17th in the Nation and hope to use the experience they gained there to improve on that finish this year.
Q- Has the cross country program changed much since you were on the team in 1996-2000?
GARCIA- Absolutely, first of all I don’t think I could make this team! The quality of the experience that we are able to provide for the athletes now is just spectacular. I loved my time in the department but it has been great to be able to watch the department grow in how we are able to make the student-athlete experience a really special one. At the same time, the team itself has maintained a certain level of consistency with the ways that they approach things which is a real testament to the leadership that Coach Van Arsdale exhibited.
Q- Tell us a little about both the men’s and women’s teams for this year. Which student-athletes do expect to be leaders, most improved and a surprise to others?
GARCIA- On the women’s side we have three solid Seniors, Amanda Burkhardt, Diane Dunn, and Emily McGregor who we will be looking towards to provide leadership both on and off the course. They each have the ability to make a significant impact in the Championship meets. Following them we have a great collection of Juniors and Sophomores who look to continue their maturation. On the Men’s side we have a nice variety of both young and experienced guys who will look to lead us. Senior captain Ryan Becijos will look to lead the team into competition while 2007 CCAA Freshman of the Year Max Mullender and All-West Region Athlete Jesse Morrill both return. Additionally, Senior Greg Geldman, Juniors Gabe LaMothe and Jake LeVieux, and Sophomore Mike Wright all look strong in early tests.
Q- What has been your most exciting cross country moment to date?
GARCIA- It is always tough to pick out a most exciting moment. A moment in coaching that stands out is winning the CCAA title on the women’s side in 2005.
Q- What are some of your interests outside of cross country?
GARCIA- Well, in all honesty Cross Country, and Track in the Spring, take up most of my time, but I love music, surfing, and biking so if I am not coaching or out for a run myself you can typically find me out doing one of these things.
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