By Mark Singerton
The UCLA men’s and women’s cross country teams did as expected Saturday at the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto.
The unranked Bruin men mustered 135 points to take third-place behind Stanford and Arizona, whose squads scored 57 and 47 points, respectively. But the outcome was all the Bruins could hope for, considering the lack of depth UCLA had coming into the event.
The team was hampered by the loss of several key runners, including senior Creighton Harris, who finished third in last year’s event. Harris was still sidelined due to a tendonitis condition, and remains questionable for the Brigham Young Invitational Oct. 22. Sophomore Keith Grossman also did not compete.
Freshman Mebrahtom Keflezighi claimed individual honors however, with a second-place performance in 24:45, 22 seconds behind Martin Keino of Arizona. Keflezighi overtook All-American Richie Boulet of California during the last length of the race, but could not catch Keino, who finished in 24:23.
“I’m happy with it,” Keflezighi said. “I gave it all I could. I was disappointed that we only got third [place] overall, but we’re missing some key people right now and we can only get better as the season goes on.”
Coach Bob Larsen sees the need for improvement in his team, but was impressed with Keflezighi and his freshman harriers.
“They came up big for us,” Larsen said. “To get third was special for us. We’re obviously not where we want to be yet, but we’re a young team, and reality is that you’re not going to challenge teams like Arizona and Stanford who have that much talent. Third is probably where we are right now as a team.”
Second was less than the Bruin women had hoped for, but it’s not surprising considering the Stanford team, which outscored UCLA 87-63 to win the 5000-meter event.
“We have a lot of depth on this team,” Stanford coach Vin Lananna said. “It helps tremendously in an event like this.”
The Cardinal proved worthy of their No. 3 ranking, putting three of their runners in the top 20.
The 19th-ranked Bruins upset No. 6 BYU, but the performances of UCLA’s All-Americans were a testament to the talent and consistency of the women’s team.
Senior Karen Hecox defended her title at Palo Alto in a time of 17:14. Junior Shelley Taylor placed fourth in 17:40, just a second behind Sarna Renfro of the Cardinal.
Junior Anna Delgado and sophomore Erica Sumi, who finished 25th and 26th, respectively, also keyed the Bruin run.