Have you caught any track-and-field home meets in, say, the last three years?

You haven’t missed much. In fact, you haven’t missed anything. For the past three seasons we have supported a UCSB track-less and field team.

This year the team will finally compete on its own turf following a $210,000 appropriation for a new track, approved by the student body two years ago.

A team with high hopes will be breaking in the new track Feb. 17 when the Gauchos take on Westmont and Claremont at 11 a.m.

“We are dedicating this first meet to the student body,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said.

Look for the men’s team to come flying out of the gates despite the absence of seniors Eric Gans and Ron DiMaggio, both distance standouts who will redshirt the season. Junior Josh Horton and sophomore junior college transfer Bryon Lamorandier promise to fill their void. The beauty of “The Beast” Horton lies in his notorious kick, one that helped him garnish first and second, respectively, in the 10,000 and 5,000 meters in the Big West Conference Championship last season.

Lamorandier comes to the Gaucho squad from Cuyamaca, where he was the champion in the 1,500 meter in California.

“He will solidify our middle-distance crew,” Dolan said.

Add junior Jacob Green, who earned all-conference honors last year with a third place finish in the 800 meters, a dash of “Freshman Sensation” J.T. Service, who scored in the steeple-chase and 5,000-meter events last season, and the men’s distance squad is ready to cook.

“Training has been going really well, and everyone is looking to make a huge step up from last year,” sophomore distance specialist David Monico said.

Junior transfer Cheyne Murray (San Mateo) gives the throwing squad another gear.

“Our goal is to have this track team become nationally recognized,” Dolan said. “We feel like we are strong enough and can continue the upward momentum [of last season] despite the two key redshirts [of Gans and DiMaggio.]”

The women are looking to bounce back from a disappointing season last year, one hampered by injuries. However, last year’s bright spots continue to shine. Sophomore pole vaulter Deborah Samson – of volleyball notoriety – set a school record last season at 12’6”. Sophomore Jasmine Washington holds the record in the 400 meters.

The throwing squad’s prospects will rest in a trio of seniors: Elizabeth Foster, Mary Kailihiwa and Jen Gardner.

The distance squad is in a similar predicament, with the pressure on fifth-year senior and team leader Jessica Lunt. Placing third in both the 1,500- and 3,000-meter events in the Big West Conference Championships last season, Lunt has Dolan’s confidence.

“The success of the distance team will fall on her shoulders, but she is ready for it,” Dolan said.

The Gauchos follow up their Feb. 17 season-opener on the 24th at 11 a.m. when Fullerton, Bakersfield and Riverside come to pay their respects to the new field.