It’s been quite a season for the UCLA cross country teams.
The men’s team has four All-Conference runners, and in the rankings – new ones will come out tomorrow – the men’s team comes at No. 8, the highest spot for the Bruins since the poll began in 1997. The women’s team didn’t have as much to show throughout the course of the year, but that changed this weekend at the NCAA West Regional.
UCLA finished in sixth place out of 35 teams in Sacramento, the Bruins’ second best finish in the regional championship since 2006.
“Right now we are all at our best,” said sophomore Carolina Johnson. “All of us keep improving after every race, and regionals came at a great time for us.”
Johnson had the best time of the day, finishing 21st overall with a time of 20:07.5. Freshmen Claire Markey followed shortly after, grinding out a 30th place finish after an injury sidelined her from last week’s Pac-12 championships, while sophomore Julia Rizk finished three spots after her with a time of 20:24.2.
Despite the results, it was unconfirmed if the team would make it to the national championship meet. But the NCAA released the official list of qualifiers Saturday, and the Bruins are back in the race again after missing the cut last year.
“We deserve to be there,” Johnson said after Friday’s race.
And it wasn’t just the women – the men beat out perennial powerhouse Oregon for third place and received an invitation to the national championship meet.
It’s the second time in three years that both men’s and women’s teams have made the national championship meet under coach Forest Braden, and just the second time since 1985 that both teams qualified.
UCLA’s top three to cross the line were all seniors. Ferdinand Edman was first to cross the finish line at a time of 29:47.9, and placed fifth overall in the event. Jonah Diaz finished 10 seconds after Edman to finish in 14th place and Austin O’Neil finished 12 places behind Diaz in 26th.
“We got the job done,” said Edman. “This race was all about taking care of business today and we did pretty well. We’re feeling really confident about (the NCAA championships).”