A Race To the Finish in the Big West Championships
The UC Irvine Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams competed in the Big West Championships at UC Riverside on Oct. 30. The men finished 4th overall as a team while the women placed 5th overall as a team.
Two UCI athletes, junior Ricky Barnes and senior Kim Ramirez received All-Big West honors as Barnes finished 5th overall in the men’s individual standings and Ramirez finished 6th overall in the women’s individual standings.
The women’s race was the first to begin at 8 a.m. Ramirez and freshman Marie Nguyen ran side by side in the top pack of runners for the first part of the race but Ramirez ended up taking the lead for UCI’s team for the remainder of the 6,000-meter race.
UCI had a fairly young team running, with six out of the nine runners being freshmen.
In the last 200 meters of the race, Ramirez came in at a time of 20:59.01 to place 6th. Ramirez’s strategy for the race was to ‘go out with the leaders and stay with them as long as I can and I did.’
Ramirez, the only senior runner for the women’s team, was very happy with her performance for the day and believed this was one of her hardest races.
‘I’m so happy. I accomplished my goal,’ Ramirez said. ‘[This has been] my goal since freshman year.’
Ramirez is also very proud of her fellow runners because most of them are very young.
Nguyen came in as the second runner for UCI with a 21st place finish (21:49:01). Freshman Candice Proctor came to the finish line in 33rd place (22:04.4).
Junior Kelly Vanderburg was fighting off a Utah State runner in the last 200-meters of the race as she finished in 40th (22:19.8).
Sophomore Kim Handel was coming into the last stretch side-by-side with a Cal State Fullerton runner. Handel sprinted hard into the finish line to place 43rd (22:29.6).
Freshman Meghan Fairly finished 45th (22:33.1) and fellow freshman Elaine Gillespie finished with a time of 22:35.8 to place 47th.
Freshman Erinn Kim came in all by herself as UCI’s eighth girl with a 50th-place finish (22:46.7) and freshman Amber Gordon rounded out the top nine for UCI by finishing in 64th (23:16.2).
Only the top five runners in each team count in the overall team points. UCI finished fourth with 133 points. A total of 10 Big West teams competed in the event.
UCI Head Coach Vince O’Boyle knows that it takes time to develop in college as a runner.
O’Boyle believes the ‘freshmen will learn from this experience. In a year [they will be] a completely different group of runners.’
O’Boyle said there is still much more to do with the women’s team.
This year he was mostly focused on learning about the younger members of his team because the older ones, such as Ramirez, know and have progressed through their collegiate careers already.
The men’s race started at 9 a.m. with most of the men coming up from the starting line in a tight pack. Junior Ricky Barnes and junior Tom Whelan were at the front of the group for UCI.
800 meters into the race, the pack started to loosen up as some of the leaders of the race began to pick up the pace.
UCI’s men were spread out in the 8K race. Barnes was trying hard to beat a UCSB runner into the finish line but could not catch him at the end. Barnes finished in a solid fifth place with a time of 24:22.4. Barnes was the only UCI runner to place in the top 10.
Barnes said, ‘I did what I wanted to do and the team too. We can’t be upset about how we raced. [I’m] pleased how we ran.’
UCI’s second runner, Whelan, sprinted hard for the last 200 meters of the race to finish 17th (24:58.1). Freshman Tim Hearts was not far behind Whelan as he came in 20th (25:05.7).
Senior Andrew Garratt was running against a Cal State Northridge runner in the last stretch of the race. Garratt was not giving up and sprinted as fast as he could to beat the CSUN runner. Garratt finished 28th (25:20.5).
‘[I] wanted to go out and start moving around mile two,’ Garratt said. ‘I’m very confident. I know when I go home I won’t have any regrets.’
Garratt also felt like ‘no one expected us to do anything and [we] came in and did better than people expected.’
Senior David Santos was also able to fight off a UC Riverside runner in the end of his race to place 37th (25:40.7). Junior John Kluve came to the finish line by himself to place 45th (25:58.3).
Junior Silvestre Uribe gutted it out to place 55th (26:24.8). Sophomore Matt Grilli finished in 59th (26:28.2) and freshman Russell Bush rounded out the top nine runners for UCI with a 61st-place finish (26:42.1).
The men finished in fourth place overall with 103 points as a team against a field of nine teams.
O’Boyle said the men’s standing ‘was not a disgrace’ because this ‘conference is really strong.’
The UCI men never ran against Utah State during the season before this event, so they did not know how they would perform overall.
Utah State finished second with 67 points as two of their runners finished first and second.
Nevertheless, the ‘team still got a positive comeback. We did well,’ O’Boyle said.
The Riverside course was flat and packed in as the runners stayed moderately close.
Family, friends and coaches were able to run from location to location to cheer on their teams. O’Boyle believed the biggest issue with this course this week was the weather.
‘The rain earlier in the week helped the course if anything,’ said O’Boyle.
But O’Boyle said ‘we prepared for anything,’ and believed this was a fair course.
O’Boyle was the only coach on his bike while the men and women competed.
‘This course lets me do that,’ O’Boyle said. ‘Normally, I’m not on a bike [but] I was able to get through three fourths of this course without disturbing the environment.’
Garratt was excited to be running on Riverside’s course.
‘I love this course. I always run well here. This course was meant for fast times,’ Garratt said.
UC Santa Barbara, last year’s Big West Champions on the women’s side, won the event again with 29 points. Junior UCSB runner Laura Christman won the women’s event with a time of 20:35.1.
The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo men, also the defending champions, came back to win it again with a total of 37 points. Junior Utah State runner Trevor Ball won the event with a time of 24:08.8.
An award ceremony followed the end of the men’s race.