UCLA cross country had its first taste of competition nearly 7,000 feet above sea level Saturday.
The George Kyte Classic in Flagstaff, Arizona, was the first of five meets the cross country team will take part in this season, but only four other teams were present.
The UCLA men’s team came in second, and the women’s team took third overall. Northern Arizona University – the defending national champion – took first on both the men’s and women’s sides.
“I was very pleased with the effort from the men who were on the start line today,” said assistant coach Devin Elizondo in a statement to UCLA Athletics. “This was a great introduction to the 2017 season. The opportunity to compete against the defending NCAA champions … will serve us well as we head into the remainder of the season.”
The top five finishers on the men’s side were all from NAU, but right behind them was redshirt junior Jackson Marshall, who covered the 4.5-mile course in 23 minutes, 22.7 seconds.
Marshall was 20 seconds behind the first-place finisher Peter Lomong, who set the pace at 5:08 per mile. Marshall’s pace was just four seconds slower.
The next three Bruins to finish were sophomore Garrett Reynolds, redshirt freshman John Carter Blunt and redshirt sophomore George Gleason, who came in eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively.
On the women’s side, the Bruins had fewer finishers in the top 10.
Redshirt senior graduate student Emily Scharmann came in fifth and freshman Erika Adler came in seventh. The duo logged times of 15:44.3 and 15:49.3, respectively.
“Scharmann’s been training really strong. … She wants to have nothing left after this year. She’s just solid,” said assistant coach Jennifer DeRego. “I didn’t know (Adler) as a high school runner and just kind of watching her in workouts, I’ve been noticing. I’m like, ‘Wow, she’s right up there.'”
In Adler’s first collegiate race, she was just 17 seconds off the pace set by race-winner junior Addi Zerrenner from Arizona.
There were a total of 13 Bruins who finished outside the top 10, however. The next-highest finishers were sophomore Cassandra Durgy, who came in 15th and redshirt sophomore Jackie Garner in 18th.
Despite the altitude, DeRego said she was not surprised by her new team’s results.
“At 4,000 feet, yeah you can feel it a little bit, but at 7,000 feet it’ll jump on you like a monkey on your back,” DeRego said. “If you don’t consider (the altitude), it will take you down.”
The Bruins have spent the last two weeks in Flagstaff at their yearly altitude training camp but will soon return to Westwood to continue training. They’ll have to wait until Sept. 23 for their next meet in St. Paul, Minnesota.