Updated: Jan 13
Last fall the UCLA women missed out on the NCAA XC Championships by a total of 19 points. Competing in a loaded West region, the Bruins finished 7th overall and saw all six teams ahead of them advance to Madison, Wisconsin.
In 2019, the Bruins look poised to avenge last year's heartbreak and to make a statement that they are one of the better teams in the country.
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The Bruins were a relatively young team in 2018, highlighted by having no seniors in their lineup at the regional meet. Leading the team again in 2019 will be junior Erika Adler. Last fall, Adler finished 14th at the West Regional Championships which earned her a spot to NCAA's two weeks later. She was consistently in the front of the pack at big meets, finishing in 24th at Pre-Nats and 13th at PAC-12's. Her consistency in cross country provides reliability up-front for UCLA and if she can continue to improve, she may be on the cusp of All-American status come this fall.
The only causes for concern around Adler would be her track season - during outdoors she did not finish her final two 5000 meter races of the season. That should not factor into her upcoming fall performances, but it is something worth noting.
Another Bruin who could be running right with Adler is Monica Hebner. The rising sophomore is a new transfer from Duke who qualified for Outdoor Nationals in the 10,000 meters as a true freshman this past spring. Hebner could be a huge addition for UCLA as the true sophomore has the potential to be a legitimate low-stick next Adler which could give UCLA a strong 1-2 punch.
While at Duke, Hebner finished 31st at the sneaky-deep Southeast Regional Championships, but that was a substantial improvement relative to her 98th place finish at Pre-Nats. Qualifying for NCAA's on the track tells us that Hebner has made significant improvements and has clearly elevated her fitness far beyond what we saw last fall.
Admittedly, transferring schools is not always easy, especially if you're moving across the country. That's a legitimate (but minor) concern for us. Regardless, if the transition goes well, she could be right on the heels of Adler (or even ahead of her) come November.
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Not to be overlooked is junior Christina Rice, who finished only nine places behind Adler at the West Regional Championships last fall. Rice made a huge jump between her freshman and sophomore years, placing an average of 57 spots higher at each race. Given that she finished the season only a short distance behind Alder, Rice could be another woman on the UCLA team capable of placing in the top 20 at the regional meet. If the Bruins are able to place three women within the top 20, they are all but guaranteed a trip to NCAA's.
Behind their front three, UCLA has a handful of women who could round out the scoring group. Jackie Garner is going to be a senior and was the #3 Bruin at the regional meet last fall. Garner, like many of her teammates, steadily improved throughout the fall. She finished 122nd at Pre-Nats early on, but had jumped to 57th at PAC-12's by October.
Garner will be likely be seen as the #4 or #5 runner for UCLA this season and if she can improve her 2018 performances by a decent margin, then this team will be looking very, very strong. Given that Garner has been steadily improving since her freshman year, it seems probable that this fall won’t be an exception for her.
The fifth spot could be filled by a number of women, but it will likely be someone from the trio of Lilly Schmidt, Claire Markey, or Cassandra Durgy. Schmidt was the #4 Bruin at the West regional meet last fall and had a solid track season that sets her up well going into cross country. Markey was the final scorer at the West Regional Championships, but was also the third Bruin at PAC-12's two weeks earlier where she finished 35th overall.
Those three women don't necessarily bring a ton of scoring potency to the table (at least not right now), but they provide a lot of insurance and stability in the second half of UCLA's lineup. They have shown that they are capable of becoming a #5 runner who won't let the score get out of control if someone has a bad day. While many people may dismiss this as an insignificant aspect of their lineup, it is arguably the most valuable part of their varsity group.
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UCLA looks to have a very strong roster going into 2019. While they may not have the same star power as their fellow PAC-12 rivals, they bring a deep roster that has shown consistent improvement over the past couple of years.
With the transfer of Hebner and a clear, proven leader in Erika Adler, there is a very good chance that UCLA will be moving up in our rankings as November approaches.