Sunday, March 29

Cross country meet to play major role in evaluating new coaches

UCLA cross country will have new assistant coaches for the first time in eight years, and Saturday's meet will show how effective the new coaching methods have really been. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

The new assistant coaches for UCLA cross country, Devin Elizondo and Jennifer DeRego, now have more than a month at their jobs under their belts.

The cross country team will finally display the results of its new coaching staff’s methods at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, the team’s second meet of the year.

“(In Arizona) we did a lot better than I think what everyone else was expecting, so I think that (Elizondo’s) training methods are working pretty well,” said redshirt freshman John Carter Blunt. “I think Roy Griak will be our breakout race. … It will be our big deciding point of whether the training is really working.”

Blunt also said that because the team previously raced at an altitude of 7,000 feet in Flagstaff, Arizona, it was hard to tell how well prepared they actually were for the meet. He added this means the team may have been stronger than the finishing positions from that meet suggested.

The next meet, however, will be just 700 feet above sea level in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Bruins will really get to see how well Elizondo’s methods are working.

“I think (Elizondo) meshes very well with our guys’ team,” said redshirt junior Jackson Marshall. “It’s all kind of a sudden change for everybody. … He’s putting his own philosophies in with ours and so far it’s working out really well.”

Marshall was the fastest Bruin at the George Kyte Classic in Flagstaff, Arizona, placing sixth overall and losing only to runners from last year’s national championship-winning team, the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks.

Marshall said he thinks Elizondo’s coaching style will prove useful for the rest of the team as it gets deeper into the year.

“Pretty much everybody has the same goals. We all want to race in nationals and finish as a top-five team,” Marshall said. “Since he knows that, he wants to push us and give us challenges to get us to do things we’ve never done before.”

On the women’s side, freshman Erika Adler was one of UCLA’s fastest women at the first meet in Flagstaff, coming in seventh with a time of 15:49.3 in her 2.6-mile run.

“It’s different, but I like how (DeRego) told us that each workout is for us to go to nationals,” Adler said. “She’s kind of working her way backwards from that. … I know she has really big goals for us and I trust her 100 percent.”

DeRego and Elizondo have both said the team will have to string together several good meets throughout the season to realize its goal of making it to nationals and placing well there. And the Roy Griak Invitational is the Bruins’ first major step toward that goal.

Assistant Sports editor

Yekikian is an assistant Sports editor. He was previously a Sports reporter for the women's volleyball and track and field beats.

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