The UCLA men’s cross country team needed runners to fill the shoes of graduated seniors Marco Anzures, Alex Crabill and Marlon Patterson. There was no time better to gauge this year’s talent than at the Fullerton Season Opener.

Against the likes of Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton and other schools Saturday in Fullerton, UCLA was able to easily capture the team title, with redshirt juniors Dylan and Spencer Knight finishing third and sixth (25:48, 26:04) respectively.

Freshmen Nohe Lema (25:51) and Dustin Fay (26:06) placed fourth and seventh overall, while the remaining member of the 2006 class, Jake Matthews, was eighth (26:10). Sophomore Zack Torres (26:11) rounded out the top 10, crossing the line in ninth place.

The Bruins ran away with the team title, placing 45 points ahead of second-place Long Beach State.

For the women’s cross country team, the 2009 season was definitely a bounce-back year. After finishing 10th in 2008, second-year coach Forest Braden spearheaded a leap to seventh at the Pac-10s in 2009.

Looking to continue last year’s momentum, the team opened with a statement. Led once again by senior Shannon Murakami, the Bruins easily captured the team title on Saturday.

Murakami was all alone at the front, finishing in 21:24. Freshmen Melissa Skiba and Sierra Vega crossed the line a bit later within a few milliseconds of each other (22:06, 22:07) and redshirt senior Kelcie Wiemann finished in 22:28 as the Bruins swept the first four slots.

Freshman Amber Murakami, the younger sister of Shannon Murakami, finished 16th in 23:03.

Though not really challenged, the Bruins got a good look at the freshmen and should be fairly optimistic about this season’s outlook.