By Toan P. Do
Sports Reporter

The UC Santa Cruz women’s cross-country team has recently experienced its best season to date. Following the lead of its two top runners, Mikayla Murphy and Carina Hendricks, the team finished seventh in regionals, the highest it has ever placed.

“This has been our best season, better than any we’ve had since I came on by far,” head coach Adam Boothe said. “I think that was due in a large part to the two runners who are going to nationals. They had one of the best 1-2 finishes in the West.”

Junior Murphy, a psychology major, and senior Hendricks, a psychology major, both qualified for the national championship race in Hanover, Ind., which took place the weekend of Nov. 20.

Murphy is the team’s top runner and captain. Boothe said Murphy is one of the most gifted runners in the country, but for reasons other than her speed.

“She doesn’t sweat the small stuff,” Boothe said. “I think runners and athletes in general can get into the paralysis of analysis. She keeps things really simple. Obviously she has talent, but a lot of athletes have talent, and they can overcomplicate it with the ‘what-ifs.’ I don’t ever see her worrying about the ‘what-ifs.’”

Murphy is very dedicated, Hendricks said.

“She’s pretty much an inspiration to all of us,” Hendricks said. “She’s our team captain so she’s always leading us on runs and activities. She’s also such a natural talent.”

Hendricks is a different story.

“Over the years Carina has not always kept things simple,” Boothe said. “She was part of my first recruiting class and it’s been an up-and-down career for her. She was on the team coming in as a freshman and then left the team for a year and wasn’t on the roster. Then she came back and over the past year she just started training.”

Running is like life, Boothe said.

“You get out of it what you put into it,” he said, “and Carina started putting a lot into it this year.”

Hendricks is an “amazing runner,” Murphy said.

“That girl can sprint and kill me on track,” she said.

Nationals were a mixed experience for the two runners. Despite having finished 58th — the highest in UCSC history — Murphy left disappointed, and yearns for another shot at the race.

“The race didn’t go as well as I’d hoped,” Murphy said. “Literally, the gun went off and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, we started!’ and I got the worst start I could’ve possibly gotten.”

It was a different situation and a different race for Hendricks, who finished 218th.

“With Carina, we just want her to enjoy the experience,” Boothe said. “It’s such a culmination of five up-and-down years for her and it’s been such a huge senior season. For her, this is icing on the cake.”

Hendricks said she was surprised.

“I didn’t even think I had a chance to make it to nationals,” she said. “My coaches knew, but they didn’t want to psych me out, so just being there was so exciting.”

The runners were affected by the cold.

“The weather was a huge factor in how we did,” Hendricks said. “I think the Western region didn’t do as well because of it.”

“It was 26 degrees, plus wind chill, so it was below freezing,” Murphy said. “We were definitely blindsided by how cold it was, plus the whole entire race was the largest, most intense thing we’ve had to do.”