The men’s and women’s track and field teams at UCSB have been running at least 75 miles per week during their off-season. Today, the women’s track team participates in the University of New Mexico Indoor in Albuquerque.
In its first official event of the season on Feb. 19, the team will head to Westmont for the Gaucho roundup, where it will face off against Westmont and Pepperdine. The Round-Up, usually held at UCSB, is changing locations this year as Westmont has a newer track and can accommodate more spectators.
UCSB had five All-Americans last season and three are returning this year: senior Barbara Nwaba, junior Ryan Martin and senior Julian deRubira. Martin is the school record holder in the 800 meter race with a time of 1:46.71, while deRubira is the school’s record holder in the 3000 meter steeplechase with a time of 8:43.62.
Nwaba holds the school’s heptathlon record with 5,552 points and set the pentathlon record with 4,140 points in last week’s University of Washington Indoor Invitational. She is currently ranked the #2 indoor pentathlete in the nation and will compete in the National Indoor Championships March 11 and 12.
Still, Nwaba is focused on what the team can achieve this season.
“We have a lot of freshmen that are going to step up,” she said.
Junior distance runner Rusty Parker expressed similar confidence in the team’s new additions.
“We have a very promising group of freshman athletes this year,” Parker said. “They should really help the team do better at the Big West Championships, especially in the sprints and horizontal jumps.”
Two freshmen to look out for on the men’s side are 100 and 200-meter sprinter Evan Walker and 110-meter hurdler Sean Johnson, who finished fourth in the California State Meet in high school.
Highlights later in the season include the All-Cal Challenge on March 12 at UC Irvine. Irvine will also host the Big West Challenge Cup five weeks later on April 18. Before then, the USC Invitational in Los Angeles on March 18 and 19 will be a good test for the Gauchos, as the Trojans are ranked as one of the top teams in the nation.
The one meet of the year that will take place at UCSB is the Cal Poly dual meet on April 30. The Big West Championships are also at UC Irvine on May 13 and 14.
Nwaba indicated that Cal State Northridge will be the biggest rival for the women’s team this year, as the Matadors beat UCSB by just five points in the Big West Championship last season.
Junior hurdler Sean Schuster explained how one of the most promising parts of the men’s team is the 4×400 relay team, as all four runners are returning from last year. The squad is composed of Martin, his younger brother, sophomore Jimmy Martin, sophomore André Pinion and senior Alvin Go.
“This team qualified for the national meet [last season] and looks to return to battle it out and return to Nationals again,” Schuster said.
The first round of the NCAA Championships will be May 26–28 in Eugene, Ore., with Finals June 8 – 11 in Des Moines, Iowa.