With the 2017 Big West Conference Championship in the books, the UCR cross country program has its sights set on their next meet, the NCAA West Regional Championships in Seattle, Washington. The 40-team field of competition will feature every Division I school on the west coast, including powerhouses like Oregon, Stanford and Washington, but Assistant Coach Rob Hansen and his squad are only concerned with themselves and their own game plan.
As far as training for the regionals, the team plans to approach training similar to how they prepared for the Big West Championship. “This week, we’re two weeks out from competition, we revved it up a little bit. And then going into the week of the tenth (the day the regionals start) will be pretty light,” explained Hansen. Clearly the training is working for the Highlanders, as redshirt sophomore Arman Irani jumped up 15 spots in this year’s conference championship. The women’s side saw impressive results as well, with redshirt seniors Weslie Peace and Faith Makau taking seventh and ninth place, respectively.
However, these were not the only Highlander runners that impressed Hansen, as a few younger runners for the men and women stepped up in the conference championship. True sophomore Leslie Rivera was one of those runners, as Hansen explained, “Leslie Rivera dropped 85 seconds off of her lifetime best and she’s been seventh or eighth girl all year and she ended up being our fourth girl.” As for the men, true freshman Jonathan Lee was the men’s second runner to finish as he placed 25th overall after jumping from 56th at the two-mile mark, prompting Hansen to say, “He did a really good job working his way up through the pack.”
Hansen then explained the goals both teams have set going into regionals based off of their placing last season. “On the ladies’ side, they finished 28th last year … we’re aiming for top 15 no lower than top 20 and on the men’s side we finished 22nd last year and we think we can match that,” elaborated Hansen. Per usual, the women’s team will look to rally behind their leaders Pearce and Makau, but the men’s side will have to rally behind their individual strength as their number two leader, redshirt junior Solomon Demeku-Ousman, will not travel with the team to Seattle due to illness.
The mentality for the men’s team going forward now, according to Hansen, is to rally around themselves as they will have a full two weeks of preparation without Demeku-Ousman in the mix. Hansen expects Irani, Lee and the rest of the team to accept the challenge head-on and rise to the occasion. Going forward, the second-year coach wants his men’s team to say to themselves, “It’s my turn, it’s my time to step up now. I’m prepared to do this.” Ultimately, both the men’s and women’s teams are poised to make some noise at the regional level and Hansen believes his squad’s preparation will put them in the position to do it.
The Highlanders will compete in the 2017 NCAA West Regionals in Seattle, Washington at Jefferson Golf Course beginning on Friday, Nov. 10.