Nov. 10, 2001
Facing the entire Pac-10 conference as well as all other West Coast division I competition, the Gauchos took 5th at the NCAA Western Regional Cross Country Championships. The race had a touch of irony for the team, as it appeared to be the team's weakest performance of the year, yet at the same time the most achieving race in UCSB's history.
The Regional meet serves as a qualifying meet for teams vying to compete at the NCAA national championships, an event the Gauchos have never participated in. After analyzing the other eight regions, the Gauchos appear to be in a good position to earn one of the 13 "at large" berths that are distributed throughout the country. While the team will not get the confirmation until this Monday, the cross country staff estimates an 85% chance of being selected -- a comfortable margin, but by no means enough to celebrate.
As has been the case for most of the season, senior Josh Horton led the team with another fine race. Placing higher than any UCSB runner ever has at the regional race, Josh took 7th in the star-studded field, covering the 10,000 meter course in 31:22. Horton's position puts him as a lock for participating in the NCAA meet as an individual, if the team unexpectedly were to be denied an invitation to nationals.
However, the hero of the day was true sophomore Chris White. After starting the season as an alternate for the top-seven, the Montara native stepped up for the Gauchos as the team's fourth runner, securing a desperately needed 34th place. "White saved us today," said assistant coach Andrea Cheda.
Other finishers included senior Eric Gans who earned his second "All-Western Region" honors by taking 19th... Junior Brandon von Guenthner bounced back from a sub-par conference race for a 26th place... Juniors Bryon Lamorandier and J.T. Service were 40th and 44th respectively, and Aaron Sharp was the team's 7th man taking 50th.
Though the team may have been slightly off, the overall team depth remains solid. The Gauchos' 6th and 7th finishers placed higher than any other teams' respective positions, and with White's improvement, the team has a solid 7 that can be expected to press the front five.
The team must now wait until Monday before they know if they will be invited to compete at the NCAA Championships, held in South Carolina on November 19th. Head Coach Pete Dolan intends to train with the expectation of competing in nine days.