September 5, 2003

2003 UCSB Cross Country Preview

Sept. 5, 2003

On Your Marks...
The UC Santa Barbara men's and women's cross country teams begin their 2003 campaign at home this Saturday, Sept. 6, playing host to Big West Conference rivals Cal Poly and Long Beach State at the UCSB Lagoon Open. After a group of Gaucho alumni race at 9:30 a.m., the women will take to the starting line for a 5,000-meter competition beginning at 10:30 a.m. The men's 8000-meter race, scheduled for 11:00 a.m., rounds out Saturday's events at the Lagoon Course. The men's and women's teams with the lowest combined finishes amongst their top-five runners will be crowned of their respective races.

Gaucho Men's Cross Country Preview
Anchoring the UCSB lineup is senior Chris White, the last remaining runner from Santa Barbara's NCAA Championship-qualifying team in 2001 that finished ranked 17th nationally. White is coming off a strong showing in the 5,000-meters at the 2003 Big West Conference track championships, placing third in a time of 14:37.43. David Monaco and Pablo Gallegos complete UCSB's trio of seniors; Monaco enjoyed a strong 2003 track season while Gallegos was Santa Barbara's sixth man at the conference meet last year. Junior Jeff Gardinia looks to build on his breakthrough 2002 campaign in which he was the team's second-highest finisher at the Pre-NCAA meet (25:23) and then enjoyed a 28th-place Big West Championship finish. As the Gauchos' fifth man in 2002, Scott Brandos placed 51st at the NCAA Regionals, while fellow junior Scott McConville was a regional qualifier in track a season ago. UCSB's talented five-man freshman class includes Mike Chavez, who capped his prep career by placing sixth at the California state meet in 2002.

Gaucho Women's Cross Country Preview
With a pair of All-Big West returnees in juniors Desiree Leek and Cosette Smith, Santa Barbara may be the favorite to earn the league title in 2003. Leek, who placed fifth at the conference meet a year ago, owns a personal best 5k time of 18:02. Smith finished fifth at the 2001 Big West Championship, and is looking to regain that form after missing all of last season due to injury. In addition, UCSB may be the only team in the country to feature two sets of identical twins, Desiree DeJesus and Tiffany Armel (who married teammate Ben Armel in the off-season), and Lauren and Lindsay Christman. DeJesus finished 17th at the 2002 Big West meet, one spot and ranks sixth in school history in at 10,000-meters on the track, while Lauren Christman served as the Gauchos' fourth runner a year ago. Armel took last year off after placing 4th in the 10,000-meters at the 2002 Big West Track Championships. Another solid performer is sophomore Stephanie Rothstein, the former Arizona state runner-up who enjoyed a 15th-place Big West showing during her rookie campaign.

On the Horizon
The Gauchos will take a week off before heading to the UC Riverside Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 20. Other meets highlighting the 2003 UCSB cross country schedule include the always-competitive Stanford Invitational on Sept. 27 and the NCAA Pre-National Meet on Oct. 18. These events will help Santa Barbara prepare for the Nov. 1 Big West Championships in Riverside, Calif., and the NCAA West Regionals two weeks later. The top-eight regional finishers will advance to the NCAA Championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Nov. 24.

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