UCSB men’s and women’s track and field are all set and ready to go for the Big West Track and Field Conference Championships this weekend in Northridge. After resting some of their top stars who were recovering from injuries and fatigue, the Gauchos will be at full strength for the individual events that begin on Friday.
Last weekend marked the first leg of competition, with the Big West Multi Championships being completed. Senior multi-event star Derek Masterson came away with his second consecutive decathlon conference championship, a feat that hasn’t been achieved since 2004-05 by Idaho star Jereme Richardson.
“We’re off to a good start being up 19 points to 8 going into the second leg,” Masterson said. “It’s not huge considering we need about 150 to win but it’s a good start and we’re all pumped to keep it going.”
Masterson’s win netted the Gauchos 10 points to go along with nine more from Mikael Powers’ and Billy Britt’s top six finishes. Masterson is waiting on the final decathlon results from around the country to see if he qualifies for the NCAA National Championships, but for now his eyes are set on the task at hand: the individual events of this weekend.
“Conference weekend is the most exciting weekend of the entire season. It’s the last time we get to truly compete as a team and it’s always very rewarding,” junior runner Dani Moreno said. “There’s a different kind of feeling in the air and it’s something we all embrace. It gives everyone the opportunity to do more than what’s expected of them. It’s not about marks and times at this point.”
“The whole team is so pumped for this meet,” said junior heptathlete Grace Esslinger. “We’ve gotten second place the past three years in a row and we want first this year. We’re all loading up on events to give ourselves the best shot.”
Middle distance will get a boost with the return of sophomore sensation Shyan Vaziri. After missing weeks of competition with a knee injury, he will return to compete in the 1500-meter run this weekend against the Big West’s best.
“Last year we projected out every single point that we needed to get in every event,” Vaziri said. “This year, we’re just going to not worry about those exact details and just try to take down as many Long Beach guys as we can in our events.”
On the women’s side of things, look for senior thrower Irene Kujore to be a driving force to a UCSB victory. Kujore has been incredible so far this season, with her last wins coming against Cal Poly in the dual meet. Nobody came even close to her scores in the hammer throw (58.95) or in the discus (48.71).
Competition begins Friday, May 10 at 9 a.m. The final events conclude with the relays at 5:20 p.m. on May 11.
A version of this article appeared on page 8 of May 9, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.