In what could have been the last race of the season, two runners stepped up, but it might not have been enough.
UCLA cross country ran at the NCAA West Regionals on Friday, and redshirt junior Millen Trujillo and redshirt sophomore Lilly Schmidt both helped score for the men’s and women’s team, respectively, for the first time this season.
Their performances helped the No. 17 men’s team and No. 36 women’s team place sixth and seventh, respectively. However, the team’s results left them just short of qualifying for next week’s NCAA Championships.
“It’s tough right now knowing that we’re gonna have to watch (nationals) from home,” said assistant coach Devin Elizondo. “I know they’re hurting, I know they’re bummed but when we go back and we look at … the effort we got, we ran well. We were right there.”
Schmidt set a personal best time of 21:10.1 for the 6K. The event was also her top race within the women’s team placing fourth among all UCLA runners.
Despite finishing seventh amongst the Bruin women runners just two weeks ago at the Pac-12 Championships, Schmidt scored for UCLA en route to their best finish at the NCAA West Regional since 2016.
“I’m just as surprised as anyone else. When we got on the line I was like I really just don’t have anything to lose,” said Schmidt. “I was relatively surprised and really just happy to score honestly.”
Elizondo said that Schmidt’s ability to rise to the occasion shows the growth made by this young women’s team that will retain all but one of its runners going into next season.
“This group will look similar to how we’re constituted which is an amazing thing,” said Elizondo. “For those women to be right there knocking on the door, believing in themselves, training together, they put themselves in a great position.”
Similarly to Schmidt, Trujillo – who was seventh among the Bruin men’s runners in the past two meets – was the third fastest runner for UCLA this weekend, clocking in at 30:10.2.
Friday’s race was a new experience for Trujillo as it was his first 10K race in his college career, and this season the team had only raced in 8K meets before Friday.
“It was awesome,” said Trujillo. “That’s the goal every season to be a scorer. I was getting advice from other guys like Colin Burke and Garrett Reynolds who ran (a 10K) before, and what they said was…it’s an 8K but you just kick later. There’s no game plan change.”
Redshirt junior George Gleason returned from an injury Friday after not competing in the Pac-12 Championships two weeks prior. Before his injury, Gleason was the No.3 runner for UCLA in the Stanford Invitational and Wisconsin Pre-Nationals, but Gleason was not able to finish the race this week.
“We all know (Gleason) is one of the hardest working guys on the team by far. I know he believes in us. It definitely wasn’t an issue at all,” said Trujillo.
Despite never running a 10K or scoring for UCLA before Friday, Trujillo finished the race as a scorer and placed 32nd overall out of the 208 men’s runners.
“He had good races (this season) but hadn’t quite made the leap, and we just felt like you know he gave us a really good shot today,” Elizondo said. “Both he and (Reynolds) were sniffing that top 25 spot, which is coveted on the regional scene. It was as a good a run as we’ve seen from him.”
Lone Bruin qualifier Erika Adler will represent UCLA as an individual next week at the NCAA Cross Country National Championships on Nov. 17, in Madison, Wisconsin.