Nov. 13, 2003
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara will compete at the West Region Championship this Saturday at Portland's Blue Lake Park. The men's championship 10k will start at 11:00am and include six teams ranked among the nation's top 30 entering the meet. UCSB is currently rated 10th in the West.
Two automatic qualifying spots to the NCAA National Championship are on the line Saturday. Top ranked and defending national champion Stanford is heavily favored to win the team title, while Big West Champion #15 Cal Poly will battle #12 Oregon, #20 Washington, #25 Arizona State and #27 Arizona for the second spot. Host Portland, Washington State, UCLA and UCSB all have potential to upset one or more of the ranked squads as well, in the extremely deep West Region. The Gauchos finished 7th at Regionals in 2002 and a program high 5th in 2001.
Junior Jeff Gardina, coming off an All-Conference 4th place finish at the Big West Championship, leads the Gauchos into Saturday's race. Gardina was the Gauchos 4th finisher at the regional meet last season. UCSB will also be turning to the experience of senior Team Co-Captain Chris White who will be running in his third career regional championship, with a high finish of 34th in 2001. White is hungry to contribute after missing this year's Big West meet due to illness.
The other five Gauchos in the seven man line-up will be on the starting line at regionals for the first time. Senior Pablo Gallegos, coming off an All-Conference 8th place effort at Big West, fifth year senior and Team Co-Captain David Monico, sophomore Art Avitia, redshirt freshman Stew Harwell, and true freshman Mike Chavez will round out the squad for Head Coach Pete Dolan.
While the Gauchos chances to qualify for the NCAA meet are a long shot, the team remains upbeat and hopes to knock off some programs that are ranked ahead of them in the polls. In addition Gardina is a threat to qualify as an individual if he is able to repeat a performance similar to his Big West finish. The top four individuals at who are not on a national qualifying team will also advance to the NCAA meet to be held Monday November 24th in Waterloo, Iowa.