Oct. 27, 2005
The Gaucho Men enter this weekend's Big West Conference Championships with a stronghold on 2nd place over their competitors and behind #27 ranked Cal Poly SLO. UCSB will be set to go at 8am, racing over 8,000m at the UC Riverside Agricultural Operations course in Riverside, CA. Always, one of the most anticipated races of the year as they have not finished lower than 3rd since 1999, Head Coach Pete Dolan remarked that the Big West Championships are, "the most exciting time of my professional career. I sense the thrill and enjoyment that our athletes experience of the head to head competition".
Early in September the Gauchos came close to upsetting the Cal Poly Mustangs at home, but that was without top athletes Chris Ashley (Jr.) and Micah Tyhurst (So.) who will be in Saturday's lineup. However, the Mustangs have proved throughout the year that they are still the favorites for the Big West Championships with a deep squad that has earned them the #27 position in the country, although they were ranked as high as 11th in 2005.
The UCSB Men will step up to the line with a veteran squad. Mike Chavez (Jr.) led the team two weeks ago at the Pre-National Meet in Indiana and looks to improve upon his 6th place All-Conference finish in '04. He stated that Big West for him is about, "team unity and is a chance to prove ourselves. I see the team not giving up in situations where we are challenged and running the best possible race we are capable of." He finished ahead of the Mustangs in early September winning the home opener and setting a new course record of 24:29 at the UCSB Campus Lagoon.
Also aiding the Gauchos up front will be Ashley who was 4th place in 2004. One of the toughest athletes on the squad on race day, he will also be looking to break up the Poly pack. Ashley and Chavez have fed off each other the last two years leading to Chavez commenting, "We play off each other. I feel more comfortable when he is around because I know he is not going to give up, so I won't either."
Tyhurst returns to the team after taking almost a month off from racing. Plagued with nagging injuries throughout the year he may be a factor in the top-10 places at Big West. He had a standout year during the Track & Field campaign, racing to a 5th place finish in the Big West Championships 10k final and then returning the next day to finish 3rd in the final All-Conference spot at 5,000m.
In order to win the title however, the Gauchos fate will lie in their four and five spots. Junior Art Avitia, who had a fantastic race two weeks dipping under 25 minutes at Pre-Nationals has been running consistently all season and could find himself in the lead pack. Also, Seniors Scott Brandos, Alex Cardiasmenos and Scott McConville have all been stepping up in '05 and may provide the Gauchos with a race in which they could find themselves in the top 10 All-Conference spots.
Stewart Harwell (Jr.) and Mike Powers (So.) will also toe the line with the Gauchos. Both ran tough races at the Cal Poly SLO Invitational. Harwell was 7th in 26:38 over the hilly 8,000m course while Powers finished just six seconds back in 8th place.
Individually, besides the Cal Poly SLO squad, Grabow of Long Beach St. will also be an athlete who can enter the top-10. He has the top Big West 6k time in '05 racing 24:03 at the Stanford Invitational in September. Admission to the Big West Championships is free and the races begin at 8am with the Men's 8,000m race.