Over the last few years, UCSB has had a string of national-caliber athletes come onto campus and excel.
The 2012-2013 school year was no exception, with senior Derek Masterson capturing the Big West Decathlon Championship for the second straight year in a row. It was the first time someone won consecutive Big West decathlon titles in almost 10 years.
“I’m honored to be a part of it,” Masterson said. “I didn’t expect I was going to break a record, but it’s always a nice addition to any championship season.”
Even while recovering from a hamstring injury, Masterson was the favorite to come away with the title after dominating the 2012 meets, and he did not disappoint.
After winning the long jump in the second event of the two-day meet, Masterson went on to win the shot put and pole vault to go along with multiple second and third-place finishes.
“[Assistant head coach] Cody Fleming had a great plan for Derek to win the decathlon despite the injury,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “We have faith that he could win even though the pain, so our primary concern was putting him in a good position to compete while keeping him healthy.”
And stay healthy he did. Masterson came back the next week and added more trophies to his mantle, winning the javelin throw with a tremendous score of 66.54 meters. The next best score was six meters short, giving the fifth-year veteran a comfortable victory cushion.
“I was disappointed by my score in the javelin event of the decathlon, but I’m comfortable in the fact that my scores from the season were good enough for me to go on to nationals,” Masterson said. “But the single events are worth as many team points as the decathlon as a whole so winning the javelin is important for me.”
It was a fitting end to Big West competition for a Gaucho legend. Overcoming an injury is nothing new to the team leader from Placerville, California, who has dealt with multiple hamstring injuries during his career to go along with two shoulder surgeries.
After missing the 2010 season with an injury redshirt, Masterson bounced back to set a personal best in the decathlon in 2011, and then went on to win his first Big West title in 2012.
“I’m proud to be a good role model for my younger teammates through hard work and leading by example,” Masterson said. “I know I’m impactful on those below me. We’ve got a great young team, and the decathlon will be in good hands. Cody’s an excellent coach and I’m sure he’ll turn them into respectable athletes.”
After turning in a decathlon performance for the ages (two years in a row), the man that Fleming and Dolan have called “national-caliber” and “best in the Big West” has turned his sights to bigger and better things.
“I’m sticking around next year to coach track and field, train and hopefully do the professional track and field thing,” Masterson said. “There’s not much money in sponsorships for track and field, so a lot of it is for love of the sport. There are always opportunities out there to help athletes out so hopefully I can catch on with a professional team.”
Until then, however, Masterson’s work at UCSB is not done. While waiting to hear on his national candidacy for the decathlon, he knows he’ll be competing in the javelin throw at the NCAA Track and Field championships on May 23. If he can build on his impressive display at the Big West, he’ll be giving the rest of the nation a run for its money.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of May 15th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo courtesy of Derek Masterson