Team Prepares For Conference Championships

Oct. 24, 2001

After weeks or "regular season" meets, the time has come for the Gauchos to battle for their conference championships. This Saturday Cal Poly San Luis Obispo will host the Big West Cross Country Championships. The event will take place at the Fairbank's Memorial Course on Route 1 in San Luis Obispo. The men's race is set to commence at 9:30 a.m. with the women's race scheduled for 10:45 a.m.

Directions To Course

Men's Team Preview:

The quest for the team title for the men is expected to be a three-way battle between UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Utah State.

Cal Poly is the reigning three-time champions dating back to 1998. Last year the Mustangs lost three of their top five runners and have yet to find a consistent top five to replace their losses. The Mustangs placed 18th at the Roy Griak Meet and won their home invitational meet. The team has received national votes from the Coaches' poll, but never in the top 25.

Utah State surprised a lot of people with an exceptional Stanford Invitational performance where they beat the Gauchos by 20 points, led by a strong performance by Slovakian Dusan Hlubocky who finished 3rd. USU has a strong front five that has earned them national respect by being ranked 25th in the coaches' poll. They also performed well in the Notre Dame Invite, finishing second behind the Fighting Irish who have been ranked in the top 10 all season.

UC Santa Barbara holds the highest ranking of any Big West cross country team since Boise State in 1996. The Gauchos are listed as the 11th best team in the country by the most recent coaches' rankings. The Gauchos defeated Cal Poly in a convincing fashion early in the season in their only encounter with both teams at full-strength.

Women's Team Preview:

On the women's side, defending champion Cal Poly, along with UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and Utah State, are among the top women's teams in contention for this year's title. Based on results earlier in the year, the crown appears to be UC Irvine's to lose. The Anteaters placed fourth at the Stanford Invitational with a score of 141, well ahead of Utah State (203) and UC Santa Barbara (215). Last year Cal Poly SLO surprised the conference by beating Irvine for the team title. This year the Mustangs have split two races against the Gauchos, edging them out in a home meet by 4 points, and losing to UCSB by 34 at Stanford.

Men's Individual Preview:

The race for the individual crown should be an interesting event. Every Big West Athlete has at some point been beaten by another Big West Athlete, leaving the door wide open for the champion.

UC Santa Barbara expects to have two athletes in contention. Senior Josh Horton possesses four "All-Conference" awards, and is the only athlete in the conference to make an NCAA appearance in track (after running a 29:09 10k). Horton has been running well this cross country season, especially in his last race where he finished 8th at the Pre-NCAA meet. Also making a run for the Gauchos will be senior Eric Gans. Gans finished 2nd at last year's championships by 1.5 seconds. Both Horton and Gans are excellent hill runners and have quick closing speed that will be key as they cover the grueling course.

Cal Poly SLO also has two contenders expected to make a run at the individual title. Senior Paulo Carvalho is the reigning champion from last year's track and field 5k and 10k races. Carvalho has been battling injuries that might hinder the three-time all-conference runner. Junior David Jackson is running his best cross country season during his career at Cal Poly. Jackson has twice been named conference athlete of the week, and recently won the Cal Poly SLO invite on the conference course. Jackson was an all-conference athlete last track season, running a sub 3:50 1500m, illustrating his legitimate kicking speed. Both Carvalho and Jackson finished behind Horton and Gans during their only previous meeting this year at the UCSB tri-meet.

Utah State should press for the individual title as well. Last year Steve Prescott and Mitch Zundell finished 3rd and 4th respectively at the Conference Championships. Both athletes are expected to again content for the title along with their addition Hlubocky.

Women's Individual Preview:

The women's race should be also exciting with the logical favorite being UCSB's own Katie Appenrodt. After twice being named the Big West Athlete of the week, the junior is in the midst of her best cross country season ever at UCSB, and has yet to be beaten by any Big West Athlete.

Expected to challenge Appenrodt is Cal Poly's Kathyrn Schlegel. The sophomore recently finished as the fastest collegiate athlete over the conference course at the SLO Invite, and has finished closer to Appenrodt than any other Big West Athlete.

UC Irvine's Tessa Cendejas has also been twice named Big West athlete of the week and should be battling Appenrodt for the majority the race. Cendejas finished 21 seconds behind Katie at their only encounter in the Stanford Invitational race.

Directions to the Cuesta/Fairbanks Memorial Cross Country Course:

Take Highway 101 North.

Exit at Santa Rosa/ Highway 1.

Proceed north toward Morro Bay for about five miles.

Pass THROUGH the stoplight at Dairy Creek Golf Course.

Signs will be posted after the second set of stoplights to lead you to:
Cuesta College (on the left-hand side) and the Cuesta/Fairbanks Memorial Cross Country Course (immediately across from Cuesta, on the right-hand side).