Oct. 13, 2001
In the men's best race of the 2001 season, the Gauchos emerged from the prestigious Pre-NCAA meet in fourth place, ahead of over a dozen teams with national ranking votes. Senior Josh Horton, inspired to return to his native east coast, led the way for the team, smiling as he blazed over the 8-kilometer course in 24:34 en route to 8th place. Horton's effort helped the team tally a score of 189, ahead of the following ranked schools:
The Gauchos achieved success with a tight pack of six holding together within the top 60 spots. Junior Brandon von Guenthner continued to run well, this time as the Gauchos' second finisher covering the course in 25:12, for 35th. Von Guenthner was followed by Eric Gans (43rd, 25:18), J.T. Service (44th, 24:18), Aaron Sharp (25:27, 59th), and Bryon Lamorandier (25:28, 60th). True sophomore Chris White, recently bumped up to the team's travel squad, was the Gauchos' seventh man with a respectable time of 26:02.
"The team ran the way they were supposed to, and that bodes well for our chances to compete at the national championships," said assistant coach Felipe Montoro. "J.T. Service has ascended to the next level of racing that the team needs, and Bryon Lamorandier backed up his successful Stanford race showing that he is a reliable asset for the team."
The meet underwent a new format that resulted in two races run within an hour of each other, with fields evenly divided in strength. The Gauchos' gold race was won by Eastern Michigan's Boaz Cheboiywo setting a course record of 23:31, while #1 ranked Colorado claimed the team title with 62 points. The black race, won by Alabama's David Kimani in 24:06, appeared to be somewhat slower, as Josh's time would have put him in 3rd place. Inserting the Gauchos' times into the race, theoretically the team would have again placed 4th behind #2 ranked Stanford, North Carolina State (9th), and NAU (8th). Full Black Race Stats
Though the team was pleased with their effort, they remain optimistic for room for improvement. Eric Gans, who finished 25th last year in the combined single-heat Pre-NCAA race, admitted to not being up to his usual abilities. Along with more from Gans, the Gauchos are expecting to have 5th year senior Steve Rider healthy for conference and regional championships.
From the perspective of the team's quest for a national championship appearance, the team achieved their goal of beating interregional competition. Assuming one of the teams the Gauchos bettered at Pre-nationals earns an automatic bid, the UCSB squad will possess "at-large" points. Four weeks from today, the Gauchos will compete in the Western Regional Championships and strive for their first ever NCAA Championship berth. The "at-large" points may prove to be the difference for the team when the NCAA awards the 13 wild card positions.
The Gauchos now have two weeks before the Big West Conference Championships where they intend to challenge for the team title. The Gauchos expect Utah State and Cal Poly SLO to be their primary competition. Cal Poly, winner of the last three championships, won their home invitational this weekend without a full-strength squad. Utah State was ranked 23rd in last weeks rankings, and has already beaten the Gauchos at the Stanford Invite. The race will be held at Cuesta Community College, though hosted by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.