During the Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) Invitational last weekend, the UCSB track and field team weathered the elements with mixed results.
Friday afternoon saw temperatures reaching 90 degrees, which made the distance events difficult, while on the second day of competition the athletes dealt with bouts of rain throughout the day.
“It was the worst weather conditions since I’ve been there as a coach,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “It was a strange weekend.”
Fortunately for senior distance runner Seanna Martin, her 5,000-meter run was held in the late evening when temperatures had cooled off and conditions were ideal. Martin finished fourth in the event out of a field of 28 women. Her time of 16:40.08 is 28 seconds faster than her previous best, the second fastest time recorded by a Big West athlete this year and good enough to earn her a bid in the NCAA regional qualifiers to be held in late May.
“That was a career maker for her,” Dolan said.
Martin began the race in the back of the pack, behind a fellow Gaucho, junior distance runner Hadas Moser. Running even 80-second laps, Martin worked her way from the back to the front of the pack, past Moser and into a group of eight women who then broke away from the main group. Dolan estimates that her time is the 30th fastest time in the nation.
“I think that it speaks a lot for our program,” Dolan said. “She had been working out and knew that it would work out for her, and it did.”
While Martin excelled, her teammates struggled in various ways. Junior distance runner Mike Chavez earned fifth place in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and, despite slipping in the fifth water barrier of the event, finished with a personal best time of 9:18.32. Meanwhile, the throwers were struggling with the rain, and the women’s 4×100 relay team had trouble when one of their racers fell after becoming entangled with a runner from the Cal State Northridge squad.
“We need more from everybody right now,” Dolan said. “We need more from distance, we need more from throws and we need more from sprints.”
Junior distance runner Micah Tyhurst ran a seasonal best 9:08.20 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, a time that earned him third place in the event, but was not fast enough to earn an NCAA regional qualifying mark.
Sophomore distance runner Bethany Nickless also turned in a seasonal best time that was short of an NCAA regional qualifying mark at 4:33.68 in the 1,500-meter run.
With the end of the season in sight, and only a few more events left to qualify for the NCAA regional, Dolan expressed doubt over Santa Barbara’s chances in the Big West Tournament.
“We shouldn’t be thinking about winning it,” Dolan said. “We shouldn’t be concentrating on winning right now. We should think about doing the best we can do. There is a lot of pressure for us to defend our women’s title; there’s a lot of pressure as defending champs. But right now it’s not looking good.”