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Being a student-athlete at UCSB is not an easy task, by any means.
As a student, you have to take care of your studying, your homework, your classes and, of course, take care of your social life.
As an athlete, you have to train year-round and even more so during your sport’s competitive season. It takes preparation and tremendous responsibility while also being consistent.
This is a life that sophomore heptathlete Tori Usgaard of the UCSB track and field team is very accustomed to. One could say that she knows this life to an even greater extent than most athletes at this university.
When it comes to her academics, she works effortlessly as a chemistry major and is currently looking to make the move to chemical engineering.
Balancing this major with a Division I sport seems difficult, but Usgaard finds that being on the team helps with her motivation.
“A typical day as a student-athlete is all about balance and organization,” Usgaard said. “You always need to spend your time wisely and be very productive. I find that track actually makes me stay more on top of my work because it molds you to be organized.”
Usgaard not only proficiently handles the obligations that come along with being a student athlete, but keeps in mind her image and responsibilities as a face of the Gauchos with every step she takes.
“Track is something that is on my mind in every aspect of what I do,” Usgaard said. “I am constantly considering track when I am making myself dinner or doing homework and need to base a study plan off my sport’s schedule.”
Along with choosing a challenging path in school, Usgaard takes the same approach when it comes to her sport. Unlike most of her teammates who specialize in one event or one group of events, she competes in seven, including running, throwing and jumping in the heptathlon.
“I love being a heptathlete because it gives athletes who are not necessarily amazing at any individual event a chance to still be a great athlete,” Usgaard said.
Just the thought of training for seven different events is exhausting and arduous enough, so how could it even be possible?
“Training for seven events takes a lot of effort and organization that my coach helps plan out. Each multi-event athlete has a particular event or events that require more time and attention because you just might not have as much background on the event,” Usgaard said. “For me, the throwing events have been something my coach and I have spent a lot of time on. Through this extra time spent on the shot put and javelin, I am finally starting to feel that I understand the event and can compete in them with more confidence.”
Usgaard describes training for the seven events as being very similar to training for a single event since she focuses on a particular workout each day. She participates in the specialized trainings that would be performed by an athlete that emphasizes that particular set of events.
She gave the example that on Wednesdays, she would do a series of different running exercises to prepare for the 100m hurdles, 200m sprint and 800m dash.
Any running specialist on Santa Barbara’s team would do these same exercises. The next day she would do the same style of training, but with throwing warm-ups and exercises instead of running.
Her training regimen and work ethic have proven her strength in her first two seasons as a Gaucho.
In her freshman year, Usgaard competed in the Big West Combined Events Championship and placed fourth as the only heptathlete to represent the Gauchos.
She improved on that performance this year by making the podium and taking home the bronze medal just a few weeks ago with a score of 4,747.
Even more impressive, Usgaard etched her name in Santa Barbara history when she had a lifetime best of 4,968 at the California Invitational, which placed her third all-time in just her second season.
She has broken her heptathlon personal record several times this season and also obtained new bests in five of the seven events.
This work shows how tough of a competitor Usgaard is, but she highlights that her success comes in large part from her coaching staff.
“The coaching staff is beyond amazing and is much more than what I expected when heading to UCSB,” Usgaard said. “The coaches are so dedicated to their athletes and this school. They have so much faith in UCSB and it inspires the athletes that much more when you know your coach is happy to be there.”
As her parents did before her, as alumni of UCSB, Usgaard is proud to represent the Gauchos in track and field and plans to improve even more than she has already in her short time here.
“I would say my goal is to reach Nationals by the time that I graduate, which usually takes a score in the 5,200-5,300 range,” Usgaard said.
With a determined mind and her sights set high, there are no ceilings for this young Gaucho.
A version of this article appeared on page 11 of May 28th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo courtesy of the Big West