The UCSB women’s cross country team will get the opportunity to show the world the Gauchos can run with any program in the nation.

Tomorrow Santa Barbara will compete in the 2003 Division I NCAA Cross-Country Pre-National Cross Country Meet at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa where it will face the strongest teams in the country.

Despite being one of the best teams in Gaucho history, they are not respected at the national level.

“We’re off the radar,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “We got no points, no votes. We’re zeroed out.”

If Santa Barbara can run up to its potential, it will cause some damage in the national polls, proving to the voters that the Gauchos belong in the rankings.

“I think we’re ready for Iowa,” Dolan said. “We’re going to represent UCSB well.”

The Gauchos will send seniors Tiffany Armel, Desiree De Jesus, juniors Desiree Leek and Cosette Smith and sophomores Lauren Christman, Lindsay Christman, and Stephanie Rothstein.

A great showing at pre-nationals will give the Gauchos a ticket to the 2003 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships at the University of Northern Iowa later this year.

The women stumbled at the highly competitive Notre Dame Invitational two weeks ago, but the experience made them stronger.

“They handled the adversity well. I think they are stronger because of it,” Dolan said. “They questioned everything, and they answered it.”

The Gaucho men are not as strong as the women, but are also looking to stake a claim in the national rankings.

They will send seniors Pablo Gallegos, David Monico and Chris White, juniors Ben Armel and Jeff Gardina, sophomore Art Avitia and freshman Mike Chavez.

“We’re a good team for the West Coast, but that is all we can claim right now,” Dolan said.

The Gauchos want to be good on all coasts.

Also, UCSB will send a men’s and women’s “B” team to the Cal Poly Invitational on Saturday.