UCLA cross country will get an opportunity to race against some of the top-ranked teams in the nation.
This weekend, the Bruins will be sending a group of runners to compete at the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals meet in Madison, Wisconsin, and at the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational in Sunnyvale, California on Saturday.
Assistant coach Devin Elizondo said he embraces the opportunity to send his team to two different meets whenever he can.
“Being able to have an alternate meet to compete in is great, and having it on the same day is even better, for the purposes of keeping training consistent,” Elizondo said. “Cross country is unique in that if you go (to a meet), you’re on the starting line; everybody who’s on that bus gets to put on a uniform and compete.”
Sophomore Erika Adler is among the Bruins making the trip to Wisconsin. Adler was UCLA’s top finisher in three of her five meets as a freshman, but ended the year injured and sat out the 2018 track and field season as a result.
In her first race since November, Adler paced the women’s team in the 6K at the Stanford Invitational, finishing ninth overall with a time of 21:13.6.
“I felt really good (at Stanford) – I went into the race just looking to have fun and almost take it as a practice day,” Adler said. “This year I’ve noticed that the entire team has gotten a lot better just learning from last year; I really think (the women’s) team can make it to nationals this year.”
Redshirt sophomore Tyler Janes is one of the Bruins competing at Santa Clara this weekend. Janes made his cross country debut last season, finishing 12th overall at the TMU Invite in the 8K, helping lead the men’s team to a victory at that meet.
“(The men’s team is) ranked No. 25 right now but everybody feels like we’re a lot better than that, so we’re trying to use this weekend to (make a statement),” Janes said. “I’d really like to finish first for our team at Santa Clara; for the Pre-Nationals team, we’re trying to get top three.”
Although the two groups are currently divided by times, Elizondo said that athletes competing in Santa Clara are not written out of the team’s championship picture yet.
“Inevitably, a couple people from Santa Clara will run themselves into a championship race,” Elizondo said. “Just because you’re on one trip or another doesn’t seal your fate; it’s about whether or not you can go and make an impact for the team, grow as an individual, and do some things you’ve never done before in a UCLA jersey, regardless of where your start line is.”
Racing will begin at 6 a.m. in Wisconsin and at 8:45 a.m. in Santa Clara.