Oct. 16, 2003
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara men's cross country team will line up against 13 teams ranked among the nation's top 30, at the Pre-National Meet Saturday, October 18, at Waterloo, Iowa. The Gauchos will be one of 73 Division I teams in two seeded 8 kilometer races vying for wins over teams from outside regions to help increase their chances for an at-large berth to the NCAA Championship, to be held on the same course in November.
UCSB has been assigned to the Gold Race, the second of two seeded heats, slated to start at 11:40pm CDT at Irv Warren Park. Nationally ranked opponents include #3 Northern Arizona, #5 Colorado, #7 Oregon, #11 Ohio State, #14 Georgetown, #15 Notre Dame, #19 Arizona, #20 Georgia, #21 North Carolina State, #22 William & Mary, #26 Butler, #29 Washington State, and #30 La Salle. The Gauchos will also compete against defending Big West champion Utah State for the first time this season. Eleven more top 30 squads will toe the starting line in the Purple Race that includes defending national champion #1 Stanford and Big West rival #24 Cal Poly. While the Gaucho men have yet to receive any votes in the national poll they are currently ranked 9th in the West Region.
The Pre-National Meet was originally set up to give teams a chance to preview the National Championship course, but in the last few seasons it has become the single most important regular season meet featuring top ranked teams from all over the country. The meet is now so popular that two races of equally seeded strength, based on the latest national poll, must be run to accommodate everyone in attendance. A quick explanation of the current NCAA qualifying procedure may explain why: 18 teams will qualify automatically to Nationals by finishing in the top 2 in one of nine regional races to be held November 15th. 13 more at-large teams will be chosen to fill the 31 squad field with the most important criteria for selection after order of finish at Regionals being the number of wins during the regular season over teams that have qualified automatically. By competing on Saturday UCSB will have an opportunity to notch a win against teams representing all eight other regions, 11 programs of which are currently ranked among the top three within their respective region.
The Gauchos will send a top seven to Iowa of Ben Armel (JR), Art Avitia (SO), Mike Chavez (FR), Pablo Gallegos (SR), Jeff Gardina (JR), Team Co-Captain David Monico (SR), and Team Co-Captain Chris White (SR). Gardina has led the Gauchos in his last two outings, while White is the lone remaining member of the 2001 squad who first gained national attention at the Pre-National Meet after a surprising 4th place finish propelled UCSB to 11th in the next week's national poll.
UCSB will also send their "B" team to the Cal Poly Invitational on Saturday to face strong "B" squads from the host Mustangs and Stanford. Conference rivals UC Irvine and CS Northridge, as well as Sacramento State are also expected to compete at the challenging Fairbanks Memorial XC Course in San Luis Obispo. The men's 8k will start at 9:30am.