This weekend, the UCSB heptathletes and decathletes will head north to UC Davis to compete in the Big West Combined Event Championship. Santa Barbara will be sending some young talent to represent the university in a test of the top all-around athlete.
This competition will be an important outing, as the points earned this weekend will relay to the overall team points total in the Big West Championship. These athletes will be competing not only for themselves, but to give their team a head start when the rest of the track and field events continue next week.
Competing in the decathlon will be sophomore Ike Okpara and freshman Darion Williams, who will compete with six others. For the heptathlon, sophomore Tori Usgaard will represent the Gauchos against 13 total athletes.
Williams will be competing in his first ever Big West Championship. To help his teammates in scoring, he will look to improve on his present best score of 6,184. Williams specializes in hurdle events, and is coming off a fourth-place performance in the 110 hurdles from last week.
Okpara will look to cap off his best year as a Gaucho in this postseason battle. During the season, Okpara has set new personal records in eight of the 10 decathlon events, as well as setting a new best score of 6,254. The sophomore is coming off a well-fought weekend against rival Cal Poly where he tied for second in the high jump and scored points for his team in the discus throw.
Usgaard has a tough road ahead of her with 14 heptathletes competing in this weekend’s events, but she stands out amongst the others. This year she has recorded a new personal record of 4,968, which ranks her third all-time in the UCSB record books. More importantly, this score currently ranks her second this season in the Big West, so Usgaard will surely be a favorite for the weekend.
Along with those outstanding positions, Usgaard has tremendously improved her skill as a combined events athlete by setting new personal bests in five of the seven events just this season. She truly can be seen as an all-around athlete as she places high amongst the ranks in several different events, even when competing with specialists in their respective fields. In last week’s Cal Poly Dual Meet, Usgaard took second place in 100m hurdles as well as fourth place in both the high jump and long jump events.
To achieve first-place honors and improve upon her fourth-place performance from last year’s Big West Championship, Usgaard will have to compete with a powerful heptathlete from Hawaii, senior Kaleigh Morrison, the only athlete to turn in a better heptathlon performance than Usgaard this year. In her personal best performance, Morrison set personal records in five of the seven events, giving her a total of 5,186. Her performance in last year’s Big West Championship will surely be bested as she placed sixth, two places behind Usgaard.
The events are set to start tomorrow at 1 p.m. with the heptathlon 100m hurdles event. The rest of the individual events will take place next weekend.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of May 8, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of The Daily Nexus.