All season, UCSB Track and Field has been working toward the Big West Conference Championships. That event is finally here.
“[This is] what we’ve been waiting for,” junior Barbara Nwaba said. “Everyone’s really amped going to get out there and compete hard for the team. We want to show that Santa Barbara’s the place to be.”
32 athletes on both the men’s and women’s side will head to UC Irvine to compete in the coveted meet today and Saturday with the overall goal of taking first as a team, though individual titles are also up for grabs.
“The team as a whole is what we’re fighting for, but [as an] individual, you want to make podium or win an event,” Nwaba said. “Last year, the women placed second and we want to win.”
The men enter the championships in first place, having earned 20 points last week in the Big West Multi-Event Championships after junior Derek Masterson and senior Mikael Powers took first and second in the decathlon, respectively. Although Nwaba won the heptathlon last weekend, the women begin the meet in second with 10 points, behind only Long Beach State’s 19.
One of the biggest races to watch, on both sides, will be the 800-meter run. Seniors Ryan Martin and Justine Diaz are the No. 1 seeds, and will look to defend their titles from last year.
“They’ve worked really hard and [this meet] is the next step to get to nationals,” Nwaba said. “They’re definitely on the top level, so they should pull out wins.”
Also for the men, sophomore Jordan Scott and senior Marquis Caldwell are projected to finish first and second in the 400-meter run. Freshman Shyan Vaziri, who captured Big West Track Athlete of the Week after running a personal best in the 800-meter run last weekend at the Occidental Invitational, enters as the No. 3 seed in the 1,500-meter run.
Senior Anthony Masci is expected to cross the finish line second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase while the 4×400 relay team composed of Caldwell, junior James Martin, Scott and Martin enters the meet ranked first.
The Gauchos are expected to sweep the men’s high jump with junior Mitchell Haag expected to win a second Big West title in the event. Also, seniors Alex Umstead and Adam Shigem are predicted to take second and third in the hammer throw, while senior Michael Guerra is the No. 2 seed in the javelin throw.
For the women, Nwaba is predicted to place first in the high jump and second in the javelin throw. Nwaba won her fourth consecutive Big West Athlete of the Week award for her first place finish in the heptathlon this past weekend.
“I’m excited for high jump especially,” Nwaba said. “I’m ready. I’ve been working [for] this for a long time.”
Senior Andrea Jacobs is expected to finish second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase while junior Veronica Gines is ranked No. 1 in the long jump.
Also in the field events, senior Tayler Williams enters the meet as the No. 1 seed in the triple jump and junior Irene Kujore is expected to take first in the shot put and second in the hammer throw.
Men’s hammer throw will open the meet, beginning at 9 a.m. at Anteater Stadium.