Nov. 25, 2003
WATERLOO, Iowa - Gaucho Junior Jeff Gardina capped off a stellar 2003 cross-country season on Monday, finishing 114th at the NCAA Division I National Championship. Gardina survived sub-freezing weather conditions to run 30:59.9 on the all-grass 10k course at Irv Warren Park in Waterloo, Iowa.
Gardina not only successfully confronted the challenge of going up against a 255 man field of the NCAA's top distance runners, but also braved a race time temperature of 20 degrees and a wind chill of zero. Dathan Ritzenhein of Colorado was the overall winner in a time of 29:14.1, edging out Stanford's Ryan Hall who came in second at 29:15.4. Stanford won the team title with just 24 points, the second lowest winning score in meet history. The Cardinal placed six runners among the top 13.
Gardina, a chemistry major from Santa Rosa recorded mid race splits of 9:15 (3k), 15:20 (5k), and 24:49 (8k) en route to his final time. His effort provided a solid conclusion to a season that saw Gardina rise to the national caliber level of NCAA distance running. After winning the Riverside Invitational in September, Gardina continued to lead the Gauchos for the rest of the season. Jeff took ninth at Notre Dame, 60th at the Pre-national Invitational, and ran to an All-Conference fourth place at Big West. His brightest moment came under the dark and cloudy skies of Portland at the West Regional meet where his 11th place finish earned him a trip to Iowa for the NCAA meet. His regional finish was the second highest ever by a Gaucho and his national appearance marked just the second season a Santa Barbara male athlete has taken part in the meet. The Gauchos last sent a men's team to the NCAA meet in 2001. Jeff's performances also showed an amazing level of improvement over his previous season results. Gardina finished just 28th at Big West and 55th at the West Regional in 2002.
Big West team champion Cal Poly represented the conference well in Iowa finishing 13th with 401 points, Brandon Collins led the Mustangs to their highest finish at the NCAA meet in program history. Utah State's Mike Neilson, the only other Big West representative in the race finished one place in front of Gardina, taking 113th in 30:59.3.