The UCSB Men’s and Women’s Track and Field teams’ tireless work this season has been preparation for now, the Big West Conference Championships beginning today in Irvine.

Santa Barbara has no qualms about what these championships mean. Senior co-captain and 400-meter runner Ron DiMaggio called a team meeting Monday night so that the Gauchos could come together and discuss what they wanted to accomplish in Irvine.

“It was a real positive meeting and it let us all get on the same page,” junior distance runner J.T. Service said. “It went very well. All the seniors got a chance to get up and get their feelings out.”

If UCSB is to succeed at the Big West Championships, the team will need several key individual performances.

“[Middle distance runner] Ron DiMaggio is a team leader and he’ll be big for us,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “[Sophomore middle distance runner] Ben Armel has just made great strides this year, and [redshirt senior distance runner] Eric Gans, it’s his fifth year and he’s been plotting five years for [these championships]. [Junior sprinter] Jasmine Washington is one of the favorites, if not the favorite, in the 400 meter. And [junior pole vaulter] Pat Turner is so consistent for us; he always gets the job done, and everybody knows he’ll get the job done.”

The value of this Big West Conference Championships is especially obvious to this year’s seniors. For the seniors, this trip to Irvine is not only the climax of a season, but of a career. Gans, a redshirt fifth-year senior who missed the championships last year due to injury, is an example of how important these championships are to so many on the team.

“I want to run as smart as I can,” Gans said. “But at the same time, I want to put everybody else in a lot of hurt. I want to put them in a position where they’ll have to hurt a lot to have a chance to beat me.”

Younger members of the team are approaching the meet in a slightly different light, however.

“I’ve tried not to look at [the Big West Championships] as the end, but as a continuation,” Washington said. “I’ve tried to see it as the icing on the cake and not something being over.”

Santa Barbara has been preparing this week for the Big West Championships by taking it easy. The Gauchos hoped to build up their energy and give nagging injuries a chance to heal.

“I just had this last weekend off,” Service said. “That’s the first weekend off I’ve had in a long time. I feel rested and good.”

The mounting excitement is certainly evident, though. UCSB has worked hard all season to get to this point. The Gauchos hope all the work they have put in during the last year will pay off when they get a chance to perform at the Big West Conference Championships in Irvine.

“This is the most excited I’ve ever been,” Service said. “I feel like a volcano, a big volcano about to blow up.”