UCLA cross country will begin championship season this weekend.
Assistant coach Devin Elizondo said the Bruins have been increasing the intensity of their training over the last two weeks in preparation for the Pac-12 championships in Stanford, California, on Friday.
The women’s team is ranked No. 7 in the West region and is fifth in the Pac-12 behind No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Stanford, No. 4 Washington and No. 6 Oregon State. Sophomore Christina Rice said that one of the key goals for the team going into the race will be working together more as a group.
“We want to focus as a group to close our gap between our (top) one to five (runners),” Rice said. “We’ll be focusing on running in packs in workouts so that we’re ready to run like that when we get to races.”
The men’s team is ranked No. 12 in the nation and is fifth in the conference behind No. 4 Stanford, No. 7 Washington, No. 8 Colorado and No. 11 Oregon.
Redshirt junior Colin Burke said the men’s string of successful meets – in which they’ve finished first, second and fourth – has helped increase their confidence in preparation for the biggest races of the season.
“We believe in the group of guys we have right now on the team,” Burke said. “Our goal this year has been to put our best foot forward to the regional meet in early November, and we’ve been working to improve throughout the season to be at our best then.”
Burke said the men’s team would need to remain consistent with the work it has put in up to this point to have a chance to succeed at the championship races.
“We’re going to work on being as consistent as possible with our training and making sure everybody’s getting their miles in,” Burke said. “We have to be really focused as a group and be confident in our guys.”
Elizondo said he has used every race and practice this year to reinforce different lessons and to prepare the athletes for the championships.
“We’re doing what we said what we wanted to do, now let’s stay on this trajectory and take it with us to the next competition,” Elizondo said. “Everything is a stepping stone toward the championship stage and getting to the next level, so we’re trying to stuff all the positivity (from previous meets) in a bag and use it as a weapon to our advantage.”