Amid high expectations, the UCSB men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to the Bay Area this weekend to take on some of the best runners in the country, during Saturday’s Stanford Invitational.

The men’s team (1-1 overall), led by seniors Mike Chavez, Chris Ashley and junior Micah Tyhurst has not raced since a Sept. 9 victory at the UC Irvine Invitational, and looks to be well rested for this week’s showdown at Stanford. The trio finished second, fifth and seventh, respectively, at Irvine, and all three runners are expected to contend again this weekend.

“My top three guys really should crack the top 10,” UCSB Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “We have a plan and we’re going to try to execute it.”

While the trio of Chavez, Ashley and Tyhurst should be in the running for the individual title, it will be much harder for the Gauchos to come away with the team title. Fourth ranked Stanford is the pre-race favorite but Dolan does not believe that they will have too big of a home-course advantage, despite the fact that the race will be held at the Stanford Golf Course.

“Stanford is highly ranked and we don’t think we can take them out, but lots of our kids are from the Bay Area, so we should be very comfortable with the course,” Dolan said. “A lot of my runners used to compete on this course when they were in high school.”

The Gauchos can also expect a strong challenge from the Cal Poly and up-and-coming Chico State teams.

“Nobody really pays attention to Chico because they’re Division II, but they have a really good coach and they just beat Washington, which is a pretty good Pac-10 team,” Dolan said.

While his men’s team will be out in full force on Saturday, Dolan is resting his top nine female runners after a stunning victory last weekend at Minnesota’s Griak Invitational. The previously unranked women’s team (2-1 overall) has vaulted all the way to #11 in the national rankings, the women’s highest ranking ever.

At the Griak Invitational, senior Stephanie Rothstein led UCSB to its first place mark, in a finish that landed her as the first Gaucho in history to win the event and earned her Golden1/ Student Athlete of the Week honors for this past week.

“It’s very exciting for the program to be ranked that high. When you talk about that level of competition you have to be careful, but they’ve earned it.” Dolan said. “Running that fast at Griak will take a lot of pressure off in our future races.”

Although the top Gaucho women will be resting, this weekend will provide some of the younger runners with a great chance to prove themselves against a top-notch field that includes defending national champion Stanford.

“Some of the girls that are racing this weekend could be top runners for a lot of other teams in the country,” Dolan said. “It’s a good experience for the freshmen and a chance to see what they can do.”

The Stanford Invitational is in its 33rd year and this year’s field will include over 5,000 runners and 45 college teams as the men will race at 8,000- and 4,000-meters with the women competing at 6,000- and 4,000-meters.