UC Santa Barbara’s men’s and women’s cross country Head Coach Pete Dolan is no Chuck Woolery from “Love Connection.” But under his watchful eye, love has blossomed for redshirt junior Ben Armel and fifth-year senior Tiffany (De Jesus) Armel.

The two met in high school when their schools competed against each other. Six years later, they are married and have a baby daughter named Arabella.

The cross country/track couple married on November 9, 2002.

“It was an exciting day,” Tiffany said. “It was raining that day, but we like the rain. Everyone was there. It was perfect.”

It’s a good thing that the Armels are distance runners, because they need the endurance to keep up with daily activities that include taking care of a baby, school, work and cross country practice.

“We’re pretty busy,” Ben said. “We enjoy everything we do. We don’t want to stop doing anything we do.”

Ben Armel is an average cross country runner but is a star on the track. His personal bests include an eye-catching 1:48.70 in the 800-meter run, 48.48 in the 400-meter and 3:58.37 in the 1,500.

“The better I run in cross country, the better I’ll run in track,” Ben said. “I still want to continue running competitively. I don’t know where it’s going to take me.”

The 2004 U.S. Olympic team trials is a possibility, but Ben still needs to cut some time off his 800. Athletes must post their qualifying standards between January 1, 2003 and July 1, 2004. Two qualifying categories exist for the 800. The “A” standard of 1:46.40 will guarantee a spot at the trials. The “B” standard of 1:48.50 will only reserve a spot if not enough athletes have attained the “A” standard. The field size is 30.

His goals are to stay consistent and keep working hard.

“I need to keep doing what I have been doing; I trust my training and my coach,” Ben said. “I’m going to keep working hard, and take it one day at a time.”

It is tough being an elite athlete and a family man.

“I think he has handled it well,” Dolan said. “He’s trying hard to be a family man and a driven athlete. He’s learning to balance things.”

Tiffany Armel said running competitively might also be in her future.

“I want to keep running, hopefully marathons,” she said.

This season she has provided added depth and leadership to the team. Tiffany placed fifth with 18:09 at the UCSB Lagoon Open and 15th with 18:21.70 at the Riverside Invitational.

The Armels have not done it alone. They have benefited from a strong support group that includes family and teammates. One of those teammates is Tiffany’s twin sister, Desiree De Jesus.

“We really appreciate all the support the team has given us,” Ben said.

An understanding coaching staff has also made the transition easier.

“Coach Dolan has helped us from day one,” Tiffany said. “He’s been there for us; he has been very understanding.”

The Armels are grateful to be in the position they are in today.

“We feel really blessed,” Ben said. “God has blessed us. We feel very fortunate for everything we have.”