Photo Credit: Estefani Zuniga
Santa Barbara, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara cross country team opened up their 2019 season at home this weekend at the annual Lagoon Open, hosted right on the UCSB Campus as they took on conference rivals Cal Poly. Team co-captain junior Nick Randazzo would take the individual win in the men's eight kilometer race for the second year in a row with a time of 24:25.81, the fifth fastest clocking on the lagoon course as well as the fastest time by a Gaucho since Anthony Ortolan's 24:21.9 clocking back in 2013. The men's team would just narrowly take defeat from the Mustangs by one point scoring 29 to 28, while the Gaucho women would take second to Cal Poly 41 to 18.
The men's race would immediately find itself in a close affair with a sea of Gauchos and Mustangs crowding around for room in the beginning stages of the race, with Randazzo and Cal Poly's Jake Ritter sharing the lead throughout the first two miles. Co-captain Daniel Mountcastle and sophomore Jack Landgraf would be taking close order with the lead pack behind Ritter and Randazzo, followed by Cal Poly's John Bennett. Ritter would be the first to strike from a long way out, seizing the front on the lagoon peninsula around two and a half miles in with Bennett, Randazzo, and Mountcastle responding back.
Randazzo would send his reply to Ritter once they hit mile three, cashing in on a strong move past Ritter to slowly begin pulling away from the top group. By the fourth mile the Gaucho junior was all alone, cruising in the final phases of the race to take a comfortable win in front of the home crowd. Mountcastle would eventually fall off the main pack of three Cal Poly runners with Ritter, Bennett, and William Fallini-Haas going 2-3-4, but he would still secure fifth in 25:15.95 with Landgraf just a few seconds off in sixth in 25:21.75. Newly minted transfer and graduate student Raymond Boffman would prove his worth on the day to finish as the Gaucho's fourth scorer in tenth in 25:41.55, while redshirt junior Yousef Baddour would conclude the scoring in 12th in 25:47.00.
"It was a great season opener for the men," remarked Interim Head Coach Darius Terry. "The guys put their depth on full display today, with Nick taking the win in one of the fastest times on this course in quite some time. There's still plenty of work to be done but I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."
The women would opt for a more conservative approach to begin the five kilometer race, with none of the competitors too keen to lead early on. Heading into the narrow single track that sits right on the edge of the lagoon shortly after mile one, there was still no definitive break from either side as the athletes would begin to disappear from view heading into the backside of the course void of spectators. The first to emerge into view on the lagoon peninsula would be Cal Poly's 2016 Big West Conference Cross Champion Peyton Bilo, establishing her bid for first as 2018 Conference Cross Champion Miranda Daschian would follow a few meters back with fellow Mustang Serra Brill and leading Gaucho Astrid Rosvall keeping track of the primary contenders.
From there Cal Poly's top group would slowly pull away from UCSB in points with Bilo leading the way clocking 17:53.62. Daschian would finish shortly behind in second in 18:05.65, while Rosvall would overtake Brill to finish third in 18:14.02. Sophomore Emma Overall would come through in the end as the second Gaucho to cross the line in tenth in 19:01.89, with redshirt junior Matti Peoples, junior Maddie Meade, and redshirt sophomore Jasmine Rippey all finishing in quick succession in 19:03.50, 19:07.57, and 19:08.87 to conclude the scoring for the meet.
"The women were handed a clear defeat, but they're moving in the right direction," Coach Terry would comment. "The majority of the women's squad is still fairly young, so the potential is there. The spread between our 2-7 was only about 12 seconds, so they could do some damage as the season progresses."
The Gauchos will return to the flat dirt acres of the Ag/Ops Course at the Riverside Invitational in two weeks for a quick preview of what to expect from the host site of the 2019 Big West Conference Championships in November. Check back at UCSBGauchos.com for future coverage and follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for additional photos and news.