The UCLA cross country team has treated its season like one long race.
It tried to keep a steady pace throughout and make consistent improvement. But most of all, the team ensured that it would perform best when it mattered: the very end.
And this weekend, finishing in 13th place at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, the Bruins crossed the finish line.
“It’s always good to end on a good note,” said sophomore Lane Werley. “We came out and made a statement. We showed what direction we’re heading in.”
This result – their strongest of the season ““ is more impressive considering the pressure surrounding a national meet.
“The nationals meet is so hard to run well,” said Werley, who placed 25th overall. “There’s just so much pressure to do well and so much hype leading up to it.”
With the strong showing came accomplishments that the Bruins have missed out on for years.
“I think that’s the first time we beat Stanford in decades,” coach Forest Braden said.
Despite the strong finish, however, coach Braden was more proud of the team’s attitude.
“We’re happy with it. For everyone, the effort was there. No one gave up and no one quit,” he said.
These emotions were tamed by the absence of the women’s team, which did not qualify for the championship .
“We’re a family,” junior Dustin Fay said. “We’d like everyone to go. In a way, they’re there with us though.”
With a strong squad of upcoming talent, Braden said next season should see a stronger finish for both the men’s and women’s sides. He believes that the key to building a good program is getting to know each runner individually and developing strong relationships.
Now, at the end of his fourth season as a coach, Braden is trying to continue improving his coaching skills in order to bring the team as much success as possible.
“I think we can be one of the best,” Braden said. “We have guys that are ready to step up.”