SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (Sept. 3) – The UC Santa Barbara men's and women's cross country teams opened their season today at the Lagoon Invite, which they host every year. There were plenty of positives following the season opener on both the men's and women's sides.
To start off the meet, the women raced against Big West rival Cal Poly and NAIA competitor Westmont. With just three teams and 25 runners, the teams were off around the 5K course on UC Santa Barbara's campus. By the end of the race, the Gauchos found themselves in first place.
Leading the way for UC Santa Barbara was Sierra Ransweiler, who came in second with a time of 17:51.97. Her teammates were right behind her in the standings as Sarah Chaves came in third with a time of 18:07.75 while Stina Johansson came across the finish line in fourth with a 18:09.4.
Rounding out the top five on the women's side is Micaela O'Connell and Madeline Franco. They finished in sixth and eighth, respectively. O'Connell ended her race with a time of 18:13.61 while Franco ran a time of 18:25.99.
"The women packed up right from the gun and took control of the race it was great to see them run this way," said Coach Shayla Houlihan. "This has been a year-long learning process of building fitness and trusting themselves and each other. It's a really special time to be part of this women's team. Winning the meet was icing on the cake. Sierra and Sarah led the team really well, which is a reflection of the strong spring and summer base building they've been able to put in. Newcomer Stina will be right up there with them in a few weeks! Big things to build off of for this crew."
For the men, Ethan Godsey smoked the competition, winning the meet with a time of 25:02.11. The second-place finisher was 17 seconds behind the newest addition to the Gauchos' lineup. Coming in ninth overall and eighth in team scoring was Preston Bowlds, who earned a time of 25:47.28. His teammate Esteban Magana came in just .06 seconds behind him, put Magana in 10th for the day.
Two other Gauchos had good races to put themselves in the top five on the team. Tomas Mountcastle and Brandon Cobain finished in 12th and 13th overall with times of 25:53.5 and 25:59.14, respectively, to solidify the Gauchos' best times for the first meet of the year.
"The men's race execution was a little shaky, but we have all the pieces on this team to execute down the line at Notre Dame, Pre-Nationals and ultimately Big West Championships and Regionals," Coach Houlihan said. "The biggest take away from today was Ethan Godsey. He was a monster over the last two miles of the race. Such an impressive win by a true freshman. These guys have put in a ton of work over spring and summer. I'm excited to see what they can do in the next training block!"
Director of Cross Country/Track and Field Cody Fleming was impressed with the teams' performances. Although there is always room for improvement, he felt it was a great start to another cross country season.
"This was a nice kick-off to the season," said Cody Fleming, UC Santa Barbara's Director of Cross Country/Track and Field. "Thanks to all the alumni who came out to support their Gauchos. The off-season work Sierra put in showed today. On the men's side, we were really impressed with Ethan and how well he did in this first meet."
The Gauchos will have next weekend off from competition before they travel to Riverside, California, for the UC Riverside Invitational. The women will run at 7:15 a.m. at this meet with the men to follow at 7:50 a.m.