Cross country team finishes season with championship appearance

men's cross country championship squad
UCSC's men's cross country squad placed 26 in the team's first-ever NCAA championship. (Photo courtesy UCSC Athletics)

UC Santa Cruz’s cross country team wrapped up a banner season over the weekend as the men placed 26th at the NCAA Division III National Championships.

The meet Nov. 18 in Elsah, Ill, near St. Louis, was “an incredible day for UC Santa Cruz cross country,” said head coach David Klech. “Eight days ago we weren't ranked among the top 35 teams in the nation and we were able to finish 26th. I'm impressed with our ability to regroup after such a remarkable race last weekend and to put forth another great effort."

The national championship appearance, the team’s first ever, followed its second place finish at the NCAA West Regionals Nov. 11. Junior Draven Hawk’s fifth place at the regionals was the highest for a Slug runner in 35 years.

In the championship race Saturday, the Banana Slugs finished with a team score of 611 over the 8-kilometer course. North Central College in Naperville, Ill, won the meet after placing four runners in the top 20.

"This was an incredibly challenging course on a cold, rainy, and windy day,” first-year coach Klech said. “This was our fourth consecutive meet averaging under 26 minutes.”

Earlier in the week, Klech was named Coach of the Year for both the men’s and women’s teams in a vote by other coaches in the Association of Division III Independents.

Sophomore Paul Colosi repeated as Male Runner of the Year. Sydney Gutierrez, also a sophomore, won Female Runner of the Year after setting personal best times twice in races against mostly Division I and II schools.

The Slugs also ran away with the Freshman runners of the year accolades. Nick Klieber won the men's award while Carrie Bradley won the women's.