Eight years since its last national ranking, UCLA women’s cross country has made its way back into the national discussion.
The Bruin women are currently ranked No. 24, while the men’s team checks in at No. 15.
With part of the team running this weekend in Fullerton, the Bruins believe their coach, Forest Braden, can boost them even further.
Junior Amber Murakami believes that the rapidly improving results the team has seen in recent years have been thanks to Braden.
“It is 50 percent coach and 50 percent us working hard. It definitely takes a coach that is dedicated to the team and is willing to make a lot of sacrifices for the team and put in a lot of effort in making our training,” Murakami said. “It also takes a lot of us being dedicated and us willing to put in the workout and work hard.”
As a senior, Alec Govi has seen the growth over the past few years and can attest to the gains he has made training under Braden.
“I’ve been extremely happy with my improvement in his coaching over the four years I have been here,” Govi said.
“I wasn’t really a star in high school by any means, and the improvement that I’ve seen has been great for me and that has been the case with other members on the team.”
Govi and Murakami raced last weekend in Santa Clara, and said they did not do as well as they hoped. Both Bruins also said that, despite the fact that they only had one week to rest, they know they will do better this week.
“Sometimes it can be a little tough ““ racing takes a toll on your body ““ so having one (race) right after the other can be a little tough, but since coach let us rest this week, I think we will all be pretty fresh for the race,” Murakami said.
Most of the team running this weekend will not be participating in next weekend’s Pac-12 Championships, but that is not going to stop the Bruins from aiming high.
“(My goal is) to be competitive and I definitely want to finish in range of my teammates,” Murakami said. “That is one of the biggest things our coach has been working on this season, is working together as a team and racing as a pack because that is going to make our team stronger. … If we’re running together we will be able to feed off of each other’s energy.”
This sense of “˜feeding off of each other’ is important to the team, even outside of competition.
“When they run well, it gives the other girls confidence who are running the Pac-12,” Braden said. “It is a domino effect: when one girl runs well, it carries over.”