Not only did the UC Irvine Women’s Cross Country team capture the glory at the Oct. 29 Big West Championships in Riverside, but they’ve also been stirring up league news claiming three awards, including the Coach of the Year award that went to Coach Vince O’Boyle.
‘It’s extremely rewarding and emotional at the same time for me,’ O’Boyle said. ‘It’s all-encompassing as a team effort. … The young women worked hard during the summer and they set goals that they reached.’
Senior Amber Steen and freshman Laura Olvera added to the honors received by the team, with Steen claiming the individual title at the Oct. 29th event and Olvera being selected as the Freshman of the Year.
Steen, who transferred from Arizona to compete in her first season here at UCI, completed the 6,000-meter course at UC Riverside with an overall time of 20:55.5. Her win led UCI to its 12th team title since 1983.
Olvera left the Riverside competition with an overall time of 21:00.3, which was fast enough to place her in second at the championships. She’s competed in a total of five races this fall, three of which she finished within the top three.
‘She learned a great deal about herself and running, and it proves that good hard work and dedication can pay off,’ O’Boyle said. ‘She has been consistent all year long and has dedicated herself to running at the next level.’
This last competition only added to an already successful season for the women’s team. The team started out strong early in September at the UCI Invitational. The tournament, which took place at Huntington Beach on Sept. 10, delivered promising results with the women’s team finishing in second place. The men’s team also performed well, leaving the tournament in fourth place.
Both teams headed to Mammoth after the tournament for a running camp, but returned to the track at the Stanford Invitational on Sept. 24. Unfortunately, the Anteaters suffered a hard hit with the women’s team coming in sixth and the men’s team in 12th.
Both teams continued suffering into their next two tournaments, though they showed some improvement at the Willamette Invitational, which sent the Anteaters home with a fourth place finish for the women’s team and a sixth place finish for the men’s.
This trend continued into the UCSD Invitational, in which the men left in seventh and the women in eighth. However, both teams revealed a renewed spirit at the Cal Poly Invitational, with the women’s team capturing the first place position and the men capturing third.
The women’s team finished the competition with a total of 46 points in the 12-team field. Loyola Marymount finished in second, trailing UCI by 17 points. Laura Olvera, with an overall time of 17:53.8, placed third in the 5,000-meter race.
The men’s team also did well for themselves, capturing a total of 71 points. Cal Poly took first and UC Santa Barbara followed in second.
Both teams next competed side by side at their most recent tournament, the Big West Conference Championships. In addition to the times clocked by Steen and Olvera, sophomore Marie Nguyen placed sixth with a time of 21:26.1 while senior Kelli Vandenburg finished in 21:34.2 which was good for ninth.
‘The team set a goal back in June and I am extremely happy for them as they have worked very hard for this day,’ O’Boyle said.
As for the men’s teams, Cal Poly took first with a total of 24 points for the day. UCI left with 140 points, which placed them in fifth.
Hopefully, the comeback achieved by the women’s team will boost both teams’ confidence as they head into their most important race of the season on Nov. 12 when they head to Stanford to compete in the NCAA West Regional.
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