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UCLA cross country splits up for two meets, competes across coasts

UCLA cross country competed in two meets over the weekend, splitting up to Riverside and Tallahassee. Senior Gwyn George was the top finisher on the women’s side for the Bruins in Florida, finishing 106th overall with a time of 21:16.8 in the 6000-meter race. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

By Eden Yu

Oct. 17, 2021 2:49 p.m.

The Bruins competed on two different coasts this weekend.

UCLA cross country split up for two meets, as half the team flew across the country to Tallahassee, Florida for the FSU Invite/Pre-Nationals on Friday, while the other half stayed local and competed in the Highlander Invitational in Riverside on Saturday.

In the Sunshine State, the Bruins found themselves forced to adjust to a new time zone – a three-hour time difference that senior and women’s team captain Gwyn George said affected her team’s performance.

“It was different waking up at 2 a.m. our time and racing at 5:38 a.m. our time,” George said. “That’s something we haven’t done before in my career at UCLA, so that definitely took a toll.”

At the Pre-Nationals, the women’s team finished 25th in a pool of 33 teams, while the men placed 27th out of 40 teams. Redshirt sophomore Peter Herold finished first for the UCLA men in the 8,000-meter race, placing 67th overall with a time of 23:59.6. Redshirt junior and team captain Darius Riley followed shortly after, coming in 69th.

On the women’s side, George placed first for the Bruins in 106th place with a time of 21:16.8, followed by junior Emma Tavella, who finished in 109th place. George said both teamwork and leadership proved key during the race, which featured a competitive pool of nationally-ranked teams from across the country such as No. 1 Northern Arizona men’s and No. 5 Colorado women’s teams.

“Because it was such a big field, it was imperative that we got out hard,” George said. “It was definitely a team effort where Emma took the lead, (sophomore Carlie Dorostkar) took the lead, (freshman Audrey Allen) took the lead and then I took the lead in the end.”

Assistant coach Devin Elizondo said the men’s and women’s team captains, Riley and George, respectively, took the lead during their races for their respective squads.

“I think it makes us stronger as a group when your leaders can talk about a race plan, and how to be successful, and then go and execute it. … This gives confidence to everybody else around them,” Elizondo said. “I’m really proud of those two.”

Elizondo also said this was the first time anyone from the travel team had been to the Pre-Nationals race, and it had one of the deepest fields of the year.

Back in California, the men’s team placed fourth overall at the Highlander Invitational. Sophomore Jake Parker was the first Bruin to finish on the men’s side in 13th place with a time of 24:22.9. In the women’s 6,000-meter race, freshman Mia Kane crossed the line first for the Bruins in 15th place with a time of 21:08.6.

“Over the last kilometer, a lot of my teammates moved up really well,” Parker said. “We were able to gain some spots and gain some points for us. I think everyone did a really good job staying tough.”

(Courtesy of James Lee/UCLA Athletics)
The men’s team placed fourth overall at the Highlander Invitational in Riverside, with sophomore Jake Parker leading the way with a 13th-place finish. (Courtesy of James Lee/UCLA Athletics)

Parker was UCLA’s third finisher at last year’s Pac-12 championships as a true freshman and said this weekend’s meet was important for him to get back on track to perform at a high level.

“It was really gratifying just because I had a rough start to the season,” Parker said. “I knew I was in shape, so I just wanted to execute, and I’m glad I could lead the team today.”

The Bruins’ next race will be at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships on Oct. 29.

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Eden Yu | Sports contributor
Yu is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball beat. She was previously a contributor on the cross country and track & field beats.
Yu is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball beat. She was previously a contributor on the cross country and track & field beats.
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