In the weeks leading into the academic year, UCLA cross country runners were given the chance to train like professional athletes.
Every year, the team engages in a three-week training camp at Mammoth Lakes, California, for a chance to train at altitude. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Janes said the goal of the camp is to bring the team closer together.
“We have this team pingpong tournament every year up in Mammoth, but this year we (forgot to get) an actual pingpong table,” Janes said. “We got one of those nets you attach to a regular table, put together a bunch of little tables and finally got our tournament the last week; and it was a nightmare but a lot of fun.”
In addition to the friendly competitions outside of practice, the team also builds confidence and chemistry during its intrasquad competitions.
“The highlight of the trip is always Big Smokey, which we do for our long run while we’re there,” said junior Cassandra Durgy. “It’s almost like a race, but it’s kind of just a good self-evaluation to end on. Considering the hills and toughness of it, it gives you a lot of confidence finishing the course.”
According to sophomore Christina Rice, the experienced members of the team told the underclassmen to appreciate the relatively stress-free environment while they could.
“The thing we always emphasize about camp is that it’s just running,” Rice said. “After practice, we could just focus on recovery. There was really no other outside pressures from life or school.”
Now that classes have started again, the athletes have the added challenge of finding a balance between the stressors of both running and their studies.
“The biggest thing (about training camp) is that you can just go back to your place and take a nap after a hard workout,” said redshirt sophomore Chris Morzenti. “With classes starting again, you have to hit up the fueling station (in Acosta Sports Training Center) and then head to class and get good grades to take care of business for your teammates.”
The training camp has paid early dividends, with the men’s team claiming a first- and second-place finish at Fresno, California, and Stanford, respectively. The women’s team has earned second-, first-, and fourth-place finishes at Fresno, Santa Clarita, California, and Stanford, respectively, to open the season.
UCLA cross country will compete Saturday at the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals in Madison, Wisconsin, and at the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational in Sunnyvale, California.