The regular season is over for UCLA cross country.
The year ended with the team splitting its runners between the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational and the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational.
The No. 20 men’s team placed ninth overall in Wisconsin and the women claimed 25th.
“The goal in Wisconsin was to finish closer to the top five,” said assistant coach Devin Elizondo. “It was a much deeper field than it has been in the past several years.”
The Nuttycombe invite was one of the largest of the year with 35 teams and 234 athletes competing on the men’s side and 33 teams and 225 athletes taking part on the women’s.
The depth of the field did not hinder the Bruins from accomplishing some of their goals, however.
“We wanted to outrun our ranking, beat some teams ranked ahead of us and finish in the single digits too,” Elizondo said.
The men were just one point from eighth place and five points away from taking seventh place overall. In a meet as large as the Nuttycombe Invitational, those five points are decided by mere seconds between finishing times.
The top finisher for the men was junior Robert Brandt, who took home seventh overall with a time of 23:52.7 minutes in the 8K.
He was followed up by sophomore Garrett Reynolds who ran a 24:11.1, junior Jackson Marshall who came in at 24:27.4 and redshirt sophomore Colin Burke who clocked a 24:31.5. They came in 33rd, 64th and 72nd overall, respectively.
UCLA’s men finished second among the Pac-12 teams present in Wisconsin – losing only to Stanford.
The women finished behind four Pac-12 teams, and their top finisher was freshman Erika Adler who came in 37th overall with a time of 20:29.5. Had Adler logged the exact same time at least year’s Nuttycombe, she would have finished 15th.
This race was also the second time this year Adler has lead the women’s team – it is also just her second race of the year.
“At the very beginning I kind of had a little panic attack just … because this race was pretty big,” Adler said. “But once I got on the line I took a deep breath and just forgot about that once the race started.”
Adler was the fifth fastest freshman that took part in the meet and was one of just two Bruins to finish in the top 100. The other was sophomore Cassandra Durgy, who came in 99th overall at 21:17.4.
Only three of the seven women who ran for UCLA had seen the course before, and assistant coach Jennifer DeRego said she wanted to expose her fastest athletes to Wisconsin because it will be the location of the national championship meet next year.
“Having the girls that aren’t really familiar with running 6K and especially in that kind of company; I thought they did an outstanding job,” DeRego said.
With just 17 DI teams present at the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational, the men garnered a top-three finish for the fourth time this year, placing second overall.
Sophomore John Carter Blunt took home his first cross country podium ever with a third-place finish and a time of 23:44.5.
The sophomore finished 58th in his last time out at the Roy Griak Invitational and said that going to the smaller meet was good for his confidence.
“Last meet I blew up pretty bad,” Blunt said. “I wanted to make sure I (started out faster) at Santa Clara and it worked out pretty good for me.”
Blunt was followed shortly by fellow sophomore George Gleason who ran a 23:49.3 and came in seventh overall and redshirt sophomore Millen Trujillo who finished 13th with a time of 24:02.3.
The team sent to the Santa Clara, California, meet was similar to the squad of men who won the The Masters Univeristy invitational a few weeks ago.
The women placed 13th overall in Santa Clara. Their top finishers were freshman Kira Loren and redshirt freshman Lucie Semone who placed just 61st and 63rd overall, respectively.
DeRego said she deliberately sent younger runners to Santa Clara to make sure the younger crop of women get more competition experience under their belts.
The Bruins will have two weeks until their next meet – the Pac-12 cross country championships.