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Training, team togetherness aid UCLA cross country at Dellinger Invitational

Members of the UCLA women’s cross country team make their way through the race. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

By Sam Schuette

Sept. 25, 2023 12:17 p.m.

The Bruins faced their first big test of the season Friday.

After opening the season in nearby Torrance on Sept. 1, the UCLA cross country team traveled north to Eugene for the 2023 Bill Dellinger Invitational. The women’s team placed sixth, while the men’s team placed ninth.

Junior Mia Kane led the women for the second straight meet with a time of 20:41.7, placing 19th overall. Sophomore Chloe Browne followed her with a time of 20:53.3 and a 28th-place finish along with sophomore Kaho Cichon’s 21:16.5 pace and her 37th-place finish. Freshman Brooke Johnston and sophomore Bella Browne rounded out the Bruins’ top-five scorers with times of 21:28.5 and 21:37.3 and 51st- and 62nd-place finishes, respectively.

Chloe Browne said the team’s performance reflected its recent training efforts.

“We just spent a month altitude training in Big Bear as a team,” Browne said. “I think that definitely contributed to individual success but also team success.”

The Dellinger Invitational posed a different set of circumstances compared to the team’s season opener at the LMU South Bay Twilight invitational. The Dellinger Invitational featured far more teams, some of whom were conference opponents and ranked nationally.

Browne said this new situation slightly changed the squad’s approach.

“I think the goals changed a little bit,” Browne said. “But the execution was always going to be the same. We know we had to go out more conservatively and save ourselves towards the end of the race, and I think we executed the plan.”

The women’s sixth-place finish as a team comes after they placed seventh and 14th at the same meet in 2022 and 2021, respectively.

On the men’s side, junior Patrick Curulla ran 24:22.3 to place first among the Bruins and 26th overall. Junior Mateo Bianchi and sophomore Harrison Dance finished back to back at 43rd and 44th place, earning 24:37.2 and 24:37.4 times, respectively, while senior Dylan Wilbur and sophomore Jai Dawson followed behind with 59th-place and 78th-place finishes, clocking in at 24.52.3 and 25.16.5, respectively, to form the UCLA men’s team’s top five runners.

Notably, Curulla’s race marked a personal best and his first time leading the team as the top runner. Like Browne, he said the training in Big Bear paid off.

“We put in a lot of good work as a team in Big Bear over the past month,” Curulla said. “We’ve been working really hard as a team together, and that showed through Eugene.”

Despite missing some notable runners due to injury, such as senior Michael Mireles, the men’s team featured a number of personal bests and season bests at the meet.

Curulla also said the team’s strategy focused on staying close to each other.

“We talk a lot about making sure we work together in a race as long as that one,” Curulla said. “We definitely put a focus on making sure you can find your teammates out there and try to stick together as a pack, because you’re a lot better when you’re able to see each other and know that you’re all hurting together.”

The results showed that the Bruins did pack relatively close. Two Bruin men finished in back-to-back places, while the top four runners placed just 23 spots from one another.

The Bruins’ next challenge will take place Oct. 13 at the Arturo Barrios Invitational, hosted by Texas A&M.

Browne said the training and outlook toward that meet and the rest of the season will change accordingly.

“We’re in our building phase, so we still got a long way to go,” Browne said. “We’re going to do some faster stuff later towards the end of the season, especially closer to Pac-12 regionals, but right now we’re already on a really good trajectory.”

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Sam Schuette
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