Tuesday, August 6, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #17 UCLA

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Head Coach: Forest Braden (2nd Season)
2012 National Finish- 13th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Lane Werley (Jr., 8:13 Open 3k, 13:53 5k)
  • Dustin Fay (Sr., 8:01 Open 3k,13:49 5k, 29:30 10k
  • Daniel Herrera (Sr., 3:45 1500m, 8:08 Open 3k, 14:14 5k)
  • Sergey Sushchikh (So., 30:04 10k)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • John Lawson (Fr., 8:58 3200m, 9th at FL Finals '12)
  • Daniel De La Torre (Fr., 4:10 1600m, 9:04 3200m)

Season Preview

 Possibly one of the biggest surprises to the cross country scene in 2012 was UCLA. Coming out of the brutal West Region prepared them very well for the opportunity to shine at the national meet. The Bruins peaked perfectly and had their fifth best finish in program history, placing 13th overall. 

Coach Forest Braden, who is also still a very solid distance runner himself, is doing great work in Westwood as UCLA is as relevant on the national level now as they ever have been. With a core group of runners returning and a good recruiting class, the Bruins are looking to build upon last season's successes. 

The main man for UCLA and their low-stick is Lane Werley. Lane was very impressive at Pac-12s and the West Regional where he placed fifth overall in both races. This momentum carried into NCAAs where he placed 25th and was All-American. His low points were crucial to UCLAs final score and overall place. Werley had a good track season, finishing second at the Pac-12 5000m outdoors and bringing his PR down to 13:53. 

Probably the most untapped talent on this Bruin squad is Dustin Fay. Not lacking for courage, Fay lays it out on the line every race by going out hard and testing his limits. Fay actually has the best 5k PR on the team, having run 13:49 during the indoor season of 2012. If he can stay healthy and roll with Werley up front, they provide a very good 1-2 for UCLA. 

The rest of the returners are now experienced cross country runners at the national level where they have seen success and will be hungry for more. Daniel Herrera had the best track season this past spring of the crew returning. Herrera ran 3:45 for 1500m and 14:14 for 5k and ran a very good 1 Mile leg of their MPSF winning DMR indoors. 

Nohe Lema and Sergey Sushchikh are now one year older and wiser too, and are key contributors to their pack. Lema had a very good regional race last year, finishing just outside the top-20 in 21st. 

From a recruiting stand-point the Coach Braden did an excellent job bringing in the local talent that will be future stars one day, similar to Fay and Werley. John Lawson is the best of the bunch having run very well in cross country last season placing ninth at the Foot Locker finals and also had a great track season running 8:58 for 3200m. He could possibly crack their top seven and provide motivation for the guys up front to not get beat by a freshman. Daniel de la Torre and Richard Ho are also local kids that are experienced and good cross country runners that will be especially good down the road. 

Forest Braden is one of the most impressive coaches in the NCAA right now, turning around this UCLA squad and making them relevant. With your coach being able to beat your for 5k and 10k provides plenty of motivation for these guys to get better. After a breakout year in 2012, UCLA is ready for more and with Werley and Fay leading the way, the Bruins are ready to roll in 2013. 

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