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Team tactics pay off for UCLA cross country at LMU South Bay Twilight meet

Members of UCLA women’s cross country make their way across the course. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

By Sam Schuette

Sept. 3, 2023 2:34 p.m.

This post was updated Sept. 4 at 10:39 p.m.

Another August marks another beginning of a cross country season for the Bruins.

UCLA cross country began its season Thursday night at the LMU South Bay Twilight invitational. The meet took place in Torrance, California, with the women’s and men’s teams placing first and second, respectively.

The women’s team came into the season opener fresh off of an eighth-place finish in a competitive 2022 Pac-12 Conference and a 13th-place finish at the NCAA Western Regionals Meet.

Junior Mia Kane said the team came into the meet hoping to run as a pack.

“Our strategy was to stay together for pretty much the whole race,” Kane said. “We were hoping to stay together through 5K.”

Coach Avery Anderson echoed the sentiment.

“The race strategy was to try to stay packed together,” Anderson said. “Our goal was to run as a group over the first 85% of the race and then allow the athletes to go after the last 1,500 meters to 1,600 meters.”

The Bruins lived up to this strategy Thursday night and started their new season off strong. They won the team competition against four other Southern California schools in the women’s 6K race, scoring a near-perfect 17 points across their first five runners as they stayed true to their pack strategy.

Kane led the way, placing first overall with a time of 20:57.7. The duo of sophomore Kaho Chicon and freshman Brooke Johnston finished second and third with 21:06.6 and 21:10.8, respectively, followed by fifth- and sixth-place finishes from sophomore sisters Chloe Browne at 21:16.5 and Bella Browne at 21:26.2.

The meet marked a dominant performance for the UCLA women’s team, which finished 50 points ahead of second-place USC. The Bruins placed in five of the top six individual finishers and seven of the top 10.

Kane said the team’s effort paid off.

“As a team, we performed exactly the way we wanted to,” Kane said. “To have an opportunity to actually be able to find your teammates in a smaller field was really cool and I think benefits us as a group because we’re able to help each other.”

Meanwhile, the men’s squad entered the season coming off a fifth-place 2022 Pac-12 finish and a 10th-place West Regionals finish. Top runners Peter Herold and Ronan McMahon-Staggs concluded their successful UCLA careers, leaving several spots to be filled by emerging runners.

The Bruin men’s team placed second in the opening 8K race, 13 points behind the meet’s host, Loyola Marymount. Senior Dylan Wilbur crossed the finish line in second place overall with 24:36 to lead the Bruins. Junior Patrick Curulla placed fourth with a time of 24:52.5, sophomore Harrison Dance ninth with 25:16, freshman Tristan Amell 14th with 25:23.5 and sophomore Jai Dawson 16th with 25:35.2 to round out UCLA’s five scorers.

The meet became a two-team competition between UCLA and LMU. While there were three other schools competing, only the Bruins and Lions featured runners placing in the top 17.

Overall, Anderson spoke highly of his team’s performance.

“I think they did a good job showing tenacity over the last mile trying to close the gap down on athletes out in front of them,” Anderson said. “We stayed within our own tactics and ran a strong race.”

The Bruins will continue their 2023 cross country season Sept. 22 at the Bill Dellinger Invitational hosted by Oregon.

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