As students return to the classroom this week, UCLA cross country will return to competition this weekend for the first time since the beginning of September.
The team will break into split-squad action at The Master’s University XC Invite in Santa Clarita, California, and at the Stanford Invitational on Saturday.
Athletes will be racing in Palo Alto, California, if they project to be a part of the group that will compete at the Pac-12 championships while the rest of the team will be racing in Santa Clarita, said assistant coach Devin Elizondo.
“Part of the travel to (Stanford) is taking a squad that looks to already be trending in that direction for championship consideration,” Elizondo said. “Most of the folks going are either scorers from last year’s team at championship time or some of the younger developmental group that has stepped into that role as men and women have graduated from last year’s group.”
One of the athletes who is racing in Stanford is redshirt sophomore Chris Morzenti, who won the 4-mile run at the Fresno Cross Country Invitational on Sept. 1 with a time of 20:31.9.
“We’ve been working on getting some turnover in our legs and feeling out a race plan for this weekend,” Morzenti said. “The team is super deep this year and everybody has a shot to be in the mix (to go to the championships).”
Redshirt sophomore Lilly Schmidt led the way for the women’s team with a third-place finish in the 5K with a time of 18:28.30 and was one of three Bruins to place in the top 10.
Though the team has taken a long break between races, Elizondo said the break fit into the team’s training plan.
“Our (three-week) training camp focused on identifying workouts that were the great equalizer,” Elizondo said. “We were asking ourselves ‘How do we utilize everybody’s strengths on a daily basis?’”
Making their 2018 season debuts at the Stanford Invitational will be sophomore Erika Adler, who finished first among Bruin athletes in three of her five meets last season, and sophomore Christina Rice, who finished 14th in the 10K at the Pac-12 track and field championships last spring.
“Our top seven didn’t race in Fresno, so what we’re excited for with Stanford is to see how our top 10 women will run (as a group),” Rice said. “We are returning our top five from last year so we’re excited to see how another year of training has affected us.”
Team captain and redshirt senior Cole Smith, who finished in the top 10 in three of his five meets during the 2018 track and field season, and junior Garret Reynolds, who finished 14th overall in the 10K at the 2017 NCAA Cross Country West regionals, will be making their season debuts on the men’s side.