Nov. 1, 2003
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara men's cross country team ran to a solid second place finish at Saturday's Big West Championship. Junior Jeff Gardina and senior Pablo Gallegos lead the way with All-Conference efforts on the Fairbanks Memorial Cross Country Course in San Luis Obispo.
"Talk about bad mornings, finding out your #2 man had food posioning and was unable to compete, the only spin I could put on the team before the race was that good teams rise in the face of a challenge, and that's exactly what they did," said Head Coach Pete Dolan in response to his team's second place finish without Team Co-Captain Chris White.
The illness was an unfortunate break for White who was planning on competing in his final Big West championship on Saturday morning, however his teammates found a way to excel without one of their team leaders on the starting line. Junior Jeff Gardina battled the field's top three finishers all the way to the finish line taking fourth in 25:40.2, just behind Cal Poly's three-some of Sean Ricketts (1st, 25:38.2), Ryan Moorcraft (2nd, 25:38.9) and Mario Macias (25:39.3). Gardina's All-Conference finish showed tremendous progress over last season's 28th place effort. The host #16 Mustangs won the team title with 23 points and UCSB finished second with 76, well ahead of third place UC Irvine at 123. Cal State Fullerton finished 4th at 130, followed by Utah State (133), Idaho (147), Long Beach State (156), UC Riverside (168) and CS Northridge (209).
Gallegos rose to the occasion, finishing eighth for the Gauchos in 25:51.3, earning his first ever All-Conference finish in cross country. The fifth-year senior from Oxnard was just 33rd in 2002.
A tightly bunched group of four gave the Gauchos a well-deserved second place finish. Freshman Mike Chavez took 20th at 26:26.8, freshman Stew Harwell was 23rd in 26:35.8, senior team co-captain David Monico placed 24th at 26:36.6 and sophomore Art Avita was the Gauchos sixth man at 26th with a time of 26:38.9.
White's situation added more drama to a meet that already had been moved to San Luis Obispo from Riverside due to the Southern California wild-fires only to have an early winter storm muddy the new location the night before. The start of the meet was delay 45 minutes to allow the course a chance to dry.
The Gauchos next meet will be the West Region Championships, Saturday November 1 at Portland, Oregon's Blue Lake Park. The men's 10k will start at 11am. The Gaucho men are currently ranked 10th in the West.