October 30, 2003

Gauchos Prepare for Big West Championships at Cal Poly

Oct. 30, 2003

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Big West Cross Country Championship, to be held this Saturday November 1st, has been moved from Riverside to Cal Poly due to wildfires that have ravaged Southern California this week. UCSB and defending champion Utah State are the top challengers to pre-race favorite #16 Cal Poly. The men's 8k will start at 8:30am at the Fairbanks Memorial Cross Country Course in San Luis Obispo.

The Big West Conference office announced the change of venue on Wednesday. "In light of the danger posed by the ongoing wildfire situation in Southern California, this was the right decision to make to move the Big West Championships from Riverside to San Luis Obispo," said Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell. "Out of concern for the well-being of our student-athletes, we are happy to still be able to provide them with a quality experience."

Cal Poly hosted the 2001 Big West championship that the Gauchos won over Utah State with the Mustangs coming third. The same three teams have battled for the conference crown over the past three seasons with Cal Poly winning in 2000, and Utah State claiming the 2002 title. The Aggies and Gauchos tied for second in 2000 and Cal Poly was the runner-up last season, followed by Santa Barbara in third. The powerful Mustang men, ranked 16th in the nation, now have an added advantage of running on their home course.

The nine man Gaucho line-up for the championship will be Chris Ashley (FR), Art Avitia (SO), Alex Cardiasmenos (SO), Mike Chavez (FR), Pablo Gallegos (SR), Jeff Gardina (JR), Stew Harwell (FR), David Monico (SR) and Chris White (SR). Head Coach Pete Dolan is looking for All-Conferecne finishes (top 10) from Gardina and White. Gardina has led the team in the last three meets including a win at the Riverside Invitatonal and a ninth place finish at the Notre Dame Invitational. White, the team's co-captain is the most experienced of the group, running in his third conference championship, he is the only member left from UCSB's 2001 Big West Championship squad competing this Saturday. White earned All-Conference honors in track, with a clutch third place finish in the 5,000m at the Big West championship last spring.

Top returnees for the individual title include Mike Nielson of Utah State (2nd in '02) and Sean Ricketts of Cal Poly (3rd in '02).