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UCLA cross country finishes its season in Sacramento, fails to make nationals

UCLA women’s cross country members race past competitors in the NCAA West Regional. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

By Sam Schuette

Nov. 12, 2023 1:57 p.m.

The Bruins wrapped up their season in Sacramento and finished in marginally different positions than in 2022.

Early Friday morning, the UCLA cross country team competed in the NCAA Division I West Regionals, ending its 2023 campaign. The women placed 12th place in the 6k, one spot better than last year while the men finished 20th in the 10k, 10 spots back from their previous NCAA regionals performance.

For the first time in her collegiate career, freshman Brooke Johnston crossed the line first for UCLA. She finished 53rd overall with a new personal best of 20:38.3. Among all freshmen in the field, Johnston placed eighth.

“We’ve been training since early summer,” Johnston said, giving credit to preparation. “So that definitely added up and resulted in peaking at the right time.”

Junior Mia Kane followed close behind at 62nd place with a 20:43.2. Sophomore Hailey Golmon ran 20:51.9 for 77th place, while sophomore Chloe Browne and junior Angelina Shandro finished 81st and 87th with times of 20:55.2 and 20:58.2, respectively.

The race culminated UCLA women’s season that featured two separate top-two team finishes and the team’s best finish in both conference and regionals since 2018.

With no seniors and only two juniors in UCLA’s seven runners on Friday, the Bruins will have much of the same team heading into 2024, returning much of the same in the new season.

Johnston said the season was one the team should take pride in.

“We’re a little disappointed that we didn’t make nationals,” Johnston said. “But all of us should be proud of each other for the effort we gave. We left it out there on the course and ran for each other. And as a team, we’ve improved a lot throughout the season.”

On the men’s side, junior Mateo Bianchi led the way for the second straight race, running 30:36.5 for a 63rd-place finish.

Sophomore Conor Gibson was the next Bruin to cross the finish line, running just the third race of his entire season and his first collegiate 10k. His 31:08.2 mark was good enough for 89th overall.

Gibson said the team’s strategy was different from prior meets due to the length increasing from 8k to 10k.

“The course was three laps, so we wanted to relax the first lap, start moving the second lap and give everything we had the third lap,” Gibson said.

Sophomore Harrison Dance ran 31:24.5 for 107th place, followed by junior Patrick Curulla in 118th place with a 31:37.4 and senior Dylan Wilbur with a 32:01.4 in 136th.

Similar to the women, only one of the seven men who competed in the regional meet is a senior. Much of the team’s talent will return next season, marking its first in the Big Ten Conference.

Gibson shared his outlook on the season and the team’s future.

“This season we’ve been pretty hampered with injuries,” Gibson said. “But I’m excited to see all my teammates back healthy in really good shape, come indoor track and outdoor track.”

Johnston shared a similar sentiment.

“We didn’t quite achieve our goals this season,” Johnston said. “So I think that we’re going to be pretty hungry for next season and all believe in ourselves that we are going to keep pushing ourselves and do all the little things right.”

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