When it comes to running the 800-meter, the best in the Big West are UCSB’s senior Ben Armel and junior Tetlo Emmen. The two have combined to finish one-two in a slew of races during the season and are the favorites to do the same in the Big West Championships starting Friday.
“All of the other coaches think they’re the favorites, and I’m not going to knock that,” UCSB Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “These two guys are winners and they’re feared in this conference.”
Although Armel and Emmen are separated by only a fraction of a second, Armel posted the faster mark of the two at 1:48.50, compared to Emmen’s 1:48.72. The third-fastest runner in the conference, Irvine’s junior middle distance runner Tom Whelan with a mark of 1:51.26, is almost three full seconds behind Santa Barbara’s dynamic duo.
“They’re both national-class athletes,” Dolan said.
Santa Barbara is fortunate to have two of the fastest runners in the Big West on the same team, but so are Emmen and Armel. Emmen is able to learn from the more experienced Armel, and the two feed off of each other’s competitive drive during practice and competition.
“The biggest thing [that running with Armel provides] is having a training partner, because we both push each other,” Emmen said. “He’s a very confident runner and his confidence helps me to feel confident … we just feed off of each other.”
One might think that two athletes so closely matched would be constantly trying to one-up each other, but Armel insists that there is no rivalry and certainly no animosity between Emmen and himself.
“If we have a good race, then he’s happy with what I do and I’m happy with what he does,” Armel said. “We just want to go one-two no matter what order.”
Armel, who is married and has a young daughter, takes his time spent on the track very seriously and has a different outlook from most college athletes.
“Time spent away from home is not something I want to spend unless I’m competing to the best of my ability,” Armel said. “I’m out there representing my school, my teammates and also my family.”
Emmen also feels the desire to compete at what he is best at. His first love was basketball, but he discovered track in high school and hasn’t looked back since.
“I have a desire to be the best at what I do,” Emmen said. “I started doing track and I was good at it, and in basketball I was still 5’10” and 130 pounds, so that wasn’t happening.”
The two will be competing in the 800, but will also form half of the 4X400 relay team, a team that shows a lot of potential but has an uncertain future in the conference championships because they have not competed once as a complete team. The relay team will also look to gain some retribution after having a baton knocked from their hands in last year’s championships.
“No one’s really expecting us to do much because we haven’t run the complete team once this year,” Armel said. “But it would be nice to beat Irvine along with everyone else.”