September 22, 2005

Season Preview - UCSB Looking to Return to Top of Big West

Sept. 22, 2005

Stanford Meet Information
Stanford Race Schedule
Entered University Teams
8,000m Course Map
United States Cross Country Association Regional & National Polls

Returning five of their top seven from the '04 Big West Championships including two All-Conference finishers, the men are determined to make a run at the 2005 title, improve upon their 10th place finish at the '04 NCAA Regional Championships in arguably the toughest region in 2005 and return to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001.

Running their full squad for the first time all year at Saturday's Stanford Invitational on the Campus Golf Course, it marks the unofficial start of the 2005 season. For the Gauchos however, it will be a conservative start as they look beyond Stanford to make their strongest showing at the Pre-National Meet in Indiana. Pre-Nationals on October 15th will be pivotal in their quest to return to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001 when that squad finished 17th in the country.

What will it take and who are the role players? First, on the road to Indiana, the Gauchos must run well at Pre-Nationals in order to score at-large points over non-region teams. The way a squad scores points is by beating a team from another region who then grabs one of the two automatic spots to the National Championships at their Regional Championships in November.

Second, is the all-important Big West Championships where they will go head to head versus the current #10 ranked Cal Poly SLO team and two-time defending Big West Champions. At the home opener, the Gauchos lost by only six points to Cal Poly but will add Ashley who finished 2nd behind teammate Chavez on Sept. 3rd but did not run in uniform. Both Chavez and Ashley ran under the previous course record.

Another addition will be Micah Tyhurst (So.) who will open up this coming weekend at Stanford. Tyhurst had a standout Track & Field season running 14:17.72 for 5,000m and was All-Conference at that distance by finishing 3rd in a deep Championship final after taking 5th the night before in the 10,000m final.

Also adding some depth to the potential Conference squad will be senior Alex Cardiasmenos, who tried out for the team four times in his first two years before making it. His discipline and determination has vaulted him to become a role player for the Gauchos. He finished 18th at the Big West Championships in '04 as the teams 3rd man. Redshirting his '04 season, Art Avitia (Jr.) returns as a constant member of the top seven throughout his career at UCSB. If coming on he could be a major factor in their quest for a Big West title and NCAA run.

Others include, Scott McConville (Sr.) who became the 1500m School Record holder with a 3:46.77 in 2005 has proven this season that he is ready for the longer distances. Scott Brandos (Sr.) had been plagued with some injuries but came on during the Track & Field season running 9:00.32 in the Steeplechase. He was 51st at the NCAA Regional Championships in 2002. Tim Aukshunas (So.) and Ben Berkowitz (Jr.) who was 26th at the Big West Championships in 2004 also will look to make an impact going into October and November.

The freshman '04 squad includes top California prep distance runners. Scott Smith of Dana Hills High School had the ninth fastest 1600m time in California for '05 with a 4:12.5 and a 3200m best of 9:06.43, the sixth fastest in the state. Waleed Totari from Damien High School held a best of 9:23.40 for 3200m but also an impressive 14:58.60 5000m time ran at the Mt. Sac Invitational. Another newcomer looking to make an impact this cross season is Daniel Cuevas of Rialto High School. He had a best of 9:33 for 3200m and 15:07 for 5000m.

Third, the Gaucho squad will travel back to the Stanford Campus Golf Course for the NCAA West Regional Championships on November 12th in which they are currently ranked #8. Of the seven ahead of them in the West all are ranked within the top 32 teams (Arizona, ASU, Cal Poly, Oregon, Portland, Stanford, Washington). Thirty-one teams will advance to the National Championships in Indiana on November 21st. Just behind them in the polls also include tough squads from Cal, UCLA and Washington St.

Festivities on Saturday at Stanford begin in the morning with the High School races. Collegiate racing action goes off at 4:10pm with the Gaucho men starting at 5:45pm in the 8,000m Scored Race. Top teams going against UCSB include Stanford and UC Berkeley among others.