Men's Cross Country finishes third at NCAA Regionals, earn at-large berth to National Championships

Men's Cross Country finishes third at NCAA Regionals, earn at-large berth to National Championships

CLAREMONT - One year after being snubbed from the NCAAs, the Banana Slug men are going back to the big race.

On Sunday, UC Santa Cruz was picked as an at-large team entry for the 2019 Division III Championship. It is the second time in school history the team is going after the 2017 squad also made it.

The men finished third at Saturday's West Regionals at Pomona-Pitzer and the women were sixth- the same finishing places as last year. It's the third top-three finish in a row for the men, and fifth top-seven finish at regionals in the past 6 years for the women.

"The NCAA West Regional Championships are the big meet we train for all season, and hope that we can do something special when we get there'" said head coach David Klech.  "We left Walla Walla last year pretty disappointed, and have had this day in our mind for the last 365 days.

"When we finished the race, we weren't sure what the NCAA Committee was going to do in terms of at-large bids, but seeing that we had qualified this morning was huge.  We really treat Cross Country as a team sport, so get to the team back feels pretty good." 

Paul Colosi finished 13th in the 8K to lead the men in 25:47.6. He becomes the first UCSC track or Cross Country athlete to make four national Championship appearances. Hayden Johnson was 15th in 25:48.5, the fastest Freshman in the West. 

"Seeing Paul qualify for Nationals for the fourth year in a row was huge," Klech said.  "Hayden has been something special since the first day of pre-season and him being the first freshman across the line was a huge reward for all of his hard work."

Three other men were All-Region finishers for UCSC: Kellen O'Neill, who finished 18th in 25:56.40, Nick Kleiber (30th, 26:32.1) and Walter Teitelbaum (33rd, 26:38.2). 

"Kellen and Nick both earned all-region for the third year in a row, and to see Walt really step up and be in our top 5 just shows how far he has come in the last year," Klech said. "Nationals is a bonus, where we're just going to run as a team and work together!"

In the women's 6K, Elana Muzzy finished 13th in 22:59.8 to earn All-Region honors. It was the 8th best finish by a UC Santa Cruz Woman ever at Regionals. Senior Natalie Marquardt placed 25th in 23:31.3 and freshman Ella Ruff was 33rd in 23.31.4 to also make All-Region. The three All-Region honorees were the most by a Banana Slug team ever and has given the UCSC women five in the past two years.

Rounding out Saturday's women's contingent were Ashley Baudin (63rd, 24:37.7), Carrie Bradley (66th, 24:46.1), and Hana Vrablik (72nd, 24:53.4).

"Elana was exceptional, and had the performance of the day," Klech said. "Getting 13th as a sophomore is just incredible and a true testament to all of the hard work she puts in everyday.  Seeing Natalie breakthrough this Cross Country season and just the leadership she provided to our freshmen is the reason you want to get into coaching.  Ella grabbing all-region and having her best race of the season was awesome to see."