Courtesy of UCR Athletics
Courtesy of UCR Athletics

The NCAA West Regional Championship on Nov. 15 marked the end of the cross country season for both men’s and women’s cross country teams. Beginning with the UC Riverside Invitational in September, the two squads participated in five meets for the year. The 2013 campaign was highlighted by runners Benjamin Heck and Raquel Hefflin.

The season-ending regional championship took place in Sacramento, and the Highlanders attempted to leave the state’s capital with a win. Both teams gave their best efforts to end the season on a high note. The men’s team finished 22nd overall out of 27 teams from all over the West, and the women’s squad finished 21st out of 32 total teams, with an exceedingly impressive performance from Hefflin, who finished in 36th place among the 227 participants.

Heck was the high man for Riverside almost all season. He was in the top 15 in two competitions this season. In the regional championship, Heck set a new career-best time for the 10-kilometer run, finishing in 31:38, good for 82nd place. Following Heck, Michael Gauger placed 103rd with a time of 31:59 while Cody Jordan crossed the finish line with a time of 32:26, good for 124th.

During the same regional championship, the women’s team was led by Hefflin, who had been the team’s most celebrated runner this season. She continued off a solid season last year where she was named to the Big West All-Conference team. This year, she’s only improved, lowering her best 5-kilometer run time to 17:09.5 at the Highlander Invitational on Oct. 19. She also lowered her 6-kilometer run time to 20:31 at the NCAA West Regional on Nov. 15, where she finished in a team-leading 36th place. During the season, Hefflin was awarded the “Budweiser Responsibility Matters Good Sport of the Month” award for the month of October, where she finished first on the team in both races she ran, including a first place overall finish at the Highlander Invitational. Senior Jzsanette Lindstrom followed behind Hefflin with a time of 21:34, respectively.

For the season, the men’s team was near the middle of the pack for nearly all their meets. The Highlander women’s cross country team competed well, finishing second and third in two of their races, as well as producing an eighth-place finish at the Inter-Regional Jamboree in October. The Highlanders now look forward to the track and field season, which is set to begin in January.