Oct. 30, 2004
The Men's Cross Country Team came ready to race at the 2004 Big West Conference Championships held Saturday at UC Riverside. While on the surface the team's place of 3rd of nine teams may not measure up to past team's success, the Gauchos were very pleased with their results.
Cal Poly, ranked 6th in the country came in as the clear favorite and ran what may have been their worst race of the season. Nevertheless, the Mustangs cruised to victory taking the team title with 37 points, with 5 athletes in the top-10.
The battle for second place and to hold on to third was what the Gauchos were focused on. Two weeks ago the Gauchos were embarrassed at the Pre-NCAA meet, finishing 28th of 35 teams, with conference rival Utah State over 350 points ahead taking 14th. This week the Gauchos were in contention with Utah State all the way to the finish. Despite putting 7 athletes in front of Utah State's fifth athlete, The Aggies produced an impressive 1-2 finish which was too for the Gauchos to overcome and the men took 3rd by just six points.
However, the Gauchos were very pleased to secure third. Internet boards and cyberchatter had suggested that UC Irvine and the Titans were going to defeat the Gauchos at the Conference Championships due to the departure of some talented runners from last year's team. But the Gauchos replaced last year's talent with new talent. The sophomore tandem of Chris Ashley and Mike Chavez, who have led the team all year, produced their best races as Gauchos. After leading the race early, Ashley was in danger of falling back at about the half-way point. But as Chavez past him, the San Jose native rallied hard to run with his teammate and the pair of 19 year olds would run tough together to claim their first All Conference awards with Chavez in sixth, and Ashley in fourth.
"Chavez ran his best race as a Gaucho," said assistant coach Eric Gans. "I think he's a big day racer, and he was ready to perform today."
The Gauchos got much better showings from their supporting cast as well. Junior Alex Cardiasmenos took 18th, sophomore Stu Harwell was 21st, and JD Krawczyk and Ben Berkowitz were 24th and 25th respectively. The Gauchos 6th and 7th man displaced every school's top 5 with the exception of Cal Poly.
The men will now prepare for the NCAA Western Regional Championships. Unfortunately due to the Gauchos' Pre-NCAA performance, the team has almost no chance of moving on to the NCAA championships. But that won't stop UCSB from hoping to be in the mix of scoring. The men have been ranked as high as sixth in the Region and with their momentum from Conference they look to regain some respect by defeating some Pac-Ten programs and perhaps earning a few individual "All Western Region" honors. The race will be held at Woodward Park in Fresno, with the men's race set to start at noon following the women's race at 11AM.