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UCLA cross country takes running start to 2022 season with win over UC San Diego

Senior Emma Tavella runs toward the finish line. Tavella placed first in UCLA cross country’s season-opening meet Thursday. (Courtesy of Don Liebig/UCLA Athletics)

By Grace Whitaker

Sept. 5, 2022 11:20 a.m.

This post was updated Sept. 5 at 7:44 p.m.

Two words can describe the Bruins’ season opener: deja vu.

UCLA cross country’s 2022 season began in a replicated fashion to its 2021 campaign – with a pair of victories in Mammoth Lakes, California, from the men’s and women’s teams.

The blue and gold defeated fellow Southern California team UC San Diego on Thursday. To kick off the 2021 season, the Bruins defeated UCSD and UC Riverside in a similar manner during a dual meet at the Mammoth tri meet.

Junior Michael Mireles said an early victory sets a great precedent for the rest of the season.

“This was just a confidence booster – a combination of a confidence booster and a rust buster,” Mireles said. “It’s been a while since we’ve competed all together, so just having all our guys healthy out there was really awesome.”

Bruins accounted for five of the top six spots and six of the top seven spots in the men’s 4,000-meter and women’s 3,000-meter, respectively, to snag the win Thursday.

Senior Emma Tavella – who finished first in the women’s race with a time of 9:55.5 – said the spread of the athletes and speed at which they finished helps the team for upcoming races.

“It gives us confidence for our upcoming races, that we can run as a pack,” Tavella said. “We can really try to decrease our spread when it comes to the bigger races, which is kind of our ultimate goal – … to make our top seven as close to each other as we can.”

On the men’s side, Mireles placed first with a time of 11:26.7, beating out fellow Bruin redshirt junior Peter Herold – who was UCLA’s fastest runner in each of his four races during the 2021 season – by 0.3 seconds. However, of the top five runners who all finished within 8.1 seconds of one another, UCLA accounted for four.

Mireles said finishing in a pack, the way the blue and gold did Thursday, establishes teamwork.

“That’s just one of our biggest goals for this year – to work as a team,” Mireles said. “Just having that be put into fruition, it’s great for our confidence and what we can hopefully do for the rest of the season.”

The Bruins’ 2021 campaign ended at the NCAA West Regionals after the men’s and women’s teams placed 12th and 15th overall, respectively, and ultimately fell short of qualifying for the NCAA championships.

Tavella said the end of last season added fuel to the Bruins’ fire.

“(It) kind of left a bitter or a sour taste in our mouth,” Tavella said. “We’re coming back this year with vengeance and looking to make nationals and really surprise people, and I really do think that we can.”

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Grace Whitaker | Sports senior staff
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
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