The UCSB men’s and women’s track and field teams capped their year off at the Big West Championships in Irvine this past weekend in the same fashion they approached their entire 2002 season – as a team.

The Gaucho men finished sixth in team competition, while the women took seventh. These final standings do not show, however, the numerous outstanding individual performances logged by members of the Santa Barbara team.

“We had some really good individual numbers [at the Big West Championships],” junior sprinter Jasmine Washington said. “We had quality, but not quantity. I think this season was really the best season since I’ve been here. Everybody worked hard. The team was really unified.”

Sophomore distance runner Ben Armel’s victory in the 800-meter was the highlight of the weekend for UCSB. Armel broke away from the field with 300 meters to go to take a commanding lead he would not relinquish, finishing in 1 minute, 49.03 seconds. That time puts Armel 18th on the NCAA Championships list. All Armel can do now is to wait and see if he will be invited to compete at the National Championships in Louisiana.

“Armel is running with so much confidence these days that nothing he does surprises me,” junior distance runner J.T. Service said. “I expect him to win every race. He’s just really mentally tough.”

Senior decathlete Joey Tosta began the Big West Championships for the Gauchos on a high note, taking second in the decathalon with a score of 6867. Senior distance runner Josh Horton put in another outstanding performance, taking first place in the 10,000-meter with a time of 30:28.24. Horton won the race with an astonishing eight-second lead. Service took second in the steeplechase, finishing in 9:12.55 and also competed in the 10,000- and 5000-meter events. Senior hurdle runner Andrew Ostarello recorded a lifetime best of 53.38 in the 400-meter hurdles, taking sixth in the event.

Junior distance runner Katie Appenrodt put in a great outing for the Santa Barbara women, taking second in the 1500-meter with a time of 4:37.94 and first in the 5,000-meter with a finish of 17:10.30.

“I was hoping to do better in the 1,500-meter but it was a weird race,” Appenrodt said. “The pace was extremely slow in the beginning and at the end I just didn’t have the kick I needed. The 5,000-meter was just a fun race to run.”

Washington ran well, taking second in the 400-meter with a time of 53.83. Sophomore pole vaulter and team captain Deborah Samson took second in the pole vault with a height of 12 feet, one inch. Sophomore Gilleon Smith recorded a lifetime best in the long jump with a distance of 18feet, 7.75 inches, taking sixth in the event.

“I thought I did really well,” Smith said. “I’m really proud of how much our conference has improved. The competition has really jumped up a notch this year.”

UCSB would have obviously liked to have finished higher in the team standings but nevertheless continues to feel good about this past season. Santa Barbara gained team unity this year, which aided the Gauchos this year and will likely do so again next season.

“There was a lot of support this year,” Smith said. “People were always doing things they didn’t have to do. It was the best teamwork I’ve ever seen.”