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UCLA cross country sprints into top ten at final Pac-12 Championships

UCLA men’s cross country members race against other Pac-12 competitors. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

By Sam Schuette

Oct. 30, 2023 12:15 p.m.

The Bruins dashed into their postseason last Friday.

On Friday afternoon, UCLA cross country took to University Place, Washington to run the 2023 Pac-12 Championships. In what would be the team’s last time running the meet before it transfers to the Big Ten, the women’s and men’s teams finished seventh and eighth overall, respectively.

On the women’s side, all five scoring Bruins finished in the top 50 of the 6k race. Junior Mia Kane led the group for the fourth time this season, with a 20:20.4 that was good enough for 31st place overall.

After finishing 50th and 45th in the 2021 and 2022 installments of the race, 2023 marks her best time and finish at the competition. The team as a whole also improved on its finish from last year, placing the highest it had in the meet since 2018.

Kane said this wasn’t an accident.

“We definitely planned to be further up in this race than we have in years past,” Kane said. “Every year we’ve gotten more competitive at the Pac-12 level. We stepped to the line with a sense of confidence that we haven’t had.”

After Kane, a group of four Bruins crossed the finish line within seven spots of each other. Sophomore Chloe Browne ran 20:33.3 to finish 40th, while juniors Angelina Shandro and Hailey Golmon came in 43rd and 45th. Freshman Brooke Johnston came in 47th with a personal best 20:45.4 to close out the top five.

Meanwhile, the men finished eighth overall in the 8k race. For the first time in his collegiate career, junior Mateo Bianchi crossed the line first for the Bruins. It marked the fourth different top finisher in as many races, as Bianchi ran a 24:23.9 for 47th overall.

Bianchi spoke about the variety of the team’s top finishers.

“Any one of us could have been our number one on any given day throughout the whole season,” Bianchi said. “We all train together every day. So it’s about being consistent and relying on each other.”

Senior Dylan Wilbur and sophomore Harrison Dance followed close behind, with times of 24:34.9 and 24:46.9 in 53rd and 55th place. Sophomores Conor Gibson and Jai Dawson came in within seconds of each other at 25:33.8 and 25:36.9, for 70th and 71st place.

Bianchi said the meet was a high-intensity environment.

“The Pac-12 meet definitely has a much higher-stakes feel,” Bianchi said. “It’s much more important how we place at the Pac-12.”

The high stakes won’t be going anywhere for the Bruins, as they’ll travel to Sacramento on Nov. 10 for the NCAA West Regional Championships.

Kane said her team’s performance on Friday bodes well for the upcoming meet.

“We had a good day as a team, but there’s definitely a lot more to come,” Kane said. “It got us really excited for regionals, and I think that every race we get a little bit more confident in ourselves and in each other.”

Bianchi echoed Kane.

“We’re looking for a strong end to the season,” Bianchi said. “It’s definitely going to be our biggest competition of the season. The level of competition is going to be higher than what we faced throughout the season, so I’m really excited to see what we can do.”

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Sam Schuette
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