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The city of Davis, CA will mark the location of the 2014 Big West Championships for the UCSB track and field team. With a head start from last weekend’s events, the Gauchos will look to capitalize on Big West honors.
With the Occidental Invitational in the books, the team has capped off its regular season and will begin postseason play this weekend.
Both the men’s and women’s teams performed excellently in their recent meets and have continued to ride a hot-streak with athletes consistently improving.
The men’s team will start the events off with a score of five points with credits to freshman Darion Williams and sophomore Ike Okapara. The two decathletes competed in last week’s events and placed fifth and eighth, respectively, with scores exceeding 5800.
The men’s team will be looking to go for an all-around approach as they have dominated on all circuits throughout this season. Both the runners and throwers have unfailingly progressed and have become likely candidates to be atop the podium in the Big West.
Junior middle distance runner Shyan Vaziri has been the clear leader on the track side with his extraordinary 800m and 1500m trials.
This year alone he has broken his own personal records multiple times and stands in first-place atop the all-time Gaucho leaderboards in the 1500m. He heads into the weekend coming off of a new record in the 800m at 1:49.05.
Junior Greg Dotson II finished just behind him with an astounding time of 1:51.15. If this duo continues to perform at a high level, it could prove to be a huge spike in points in the event.
On the field side for the Gauchos, junior thrower Albert Hughes has been impressive on many accounts. In recent events, he has pushed the Gauchos to victories with his clutch performances late in the meets.
During the recent dual meet with rival Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Hughes broke his personal record in the hammer throw before proceeding to have a first-place clinching toss in the discus event over the Mustangs.
The women’s team will head into this year’s championships with six points on the score on behalf of sophomore heptathlete Tori Usgaard. In her competition last week, Usgaard earned a score of 4747 to take third place out of 15 athletes.
The running game has been constantly rising and will truly be a large part in the women’s success this weekend.
In the Oxy Invitational, junior sprinter Jessica Johnson landed herself in third place in the Gaucho record books with a second place time of 53.77 in the 400m race.
Even more importantly, Johnson is now in sight for NCAA West-Region honors as the postseason continues.
The junior is surely a favorite in this weekend’s events as she is tied for first-place amongst other Big West athletes in the 400m.
Along with Johnson, sophomore runner Tori Tsolis recently landed herself in the Santa Barbara record books.
Her performance last week in the 800m landed her the fourth best mark in school history with a 2:09.65 race. With the Championship in mind, both of these runners will look to put their team on top of the Big West.
Events are set to start Friday afternoon at UC Davis.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of May 15, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Mark Brocher of the Daily Nexus.