The UCLA cross country team ran its final miles of the season under frigid conditions in Terre Haute, Indiana, at the NCAA championship Saturday.
With temperatures just hovering over the freezing mark, the men’s team finished 15th, coming behind fellow Pac-12 teams Stanford, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State. The women finished in 28th place, out of a total field of 31 teams.
Dropping a spot from their 14th placed finish in the 2015 NCAA championship, UCLA coach Forest Braden was disappointed with the men’s result.
“Going in ranked 10th in the nation (according to national polls), we felt that on an average day, we could be in the top 10,” Braden said.
However, Braden had nothing but praise for senior Ferdinand Edman who lead the men’s team with his 14th place overall finish, running the 10-kilometer course in 30 minutes, 8.8 seconds.
“His approach to training and racing has been so important to this team all season,” Braden said.
Edman posted the best UCLA finish in the championship since Boston and New York Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi in 1997.
Following Edman was fellow senior Jonah Diaz, who finished 52nd overall. Freshman Garrett Reynolds, redshirt freshman Colin Burke and junior Daniel De La Torre, came in third, fourth and fifth, respectfully, for the Bruins. Junior Myles Smith and senior Austin O’Neil rounded out the men’s squad.
The women improved from last season when they didn’t even qualify for the national championship. But Braden also directed some criticism at the squad.
“If we raced like we did at the NCAA regionals, we would’ve been in the top 15,” Braden said.
Braden attributes the lackluster performance to a hangover effect from the regional championship.
“Sometimes it’s hard to come back from a good performance, like we had at the regionals,” Braden said. “And then regroup and be mentally ready and focused.”
Injuries also plagued the women’s squad during the championship.
Freshman Claire Markey, still suffering from a facial fracture, came in second for the Bruins. One of UCLA’s other top runners, sophomore Julia Rizk, was also injured, suffering from ankle tendonitis halfway through the race. She came in last for the Bruins.
Sophomore Carolina Johnson led the team, coming in 59th place overall. Freshman Cassandra Durgy, junior Roni Yamane and junior Emily Scharmann came in third, fourth and fifth, respectfully, for UCLA.
Most of the team will begin training for the upcoming track and field season and look forward to the 2017 cross country season, which Braden is optimistic about.
“We’ve got really talented athletes on this team,” Braden said. “There’s no reason we can’t have our best season ever next year. The women’s squad will be the best squad since 2003 (when they came in seventh).”