Twenty of the top athletes on the UCSB track and field team will make their pilgrimage to track and field’s holy land in Eugene, Ore. to compete in the Oregon Invitational starting today and ending Saturday. Ten men and 10 women will compete on the same track that the legendary Steve Prefontaine made famous in the 1970’s.

By sending the best on the team, UCSB Head Coach Pete Dolan hopes to give those athletes a chance to experience the level of competition that they will likely face in NCAA Regional and National events.

“We’re trying to match up against some of the best athletes in the country,” Dolan said. “The reason why we are going is to get that sort of experience.”

Senior distance runner Seanna Martin will join her teammates in Eugene coming off a strong performance in last weekend’s Mt. SAC Invitational where she posted a personal best and clinched an NCAA Regional qualifying mark in the 5,000-meter run.

“I’m definitely ready to go,” Martin said. “This is probably my last chance in my college career to run in the 1,500, so I’m definitely looking forward to this weekend.”

On the men’s side, senior distance runner Scott McConville will represent the Gauchos in the 1,500-meter run. He, too, is coming off a seasonal best time at Mt. SAC, despite the fact that the race was held during a downpour. He travels to Oregon with his teammates looking to hone his skills in a championship-caliber event, as well as to prove what he is capable of on the track.

“For me, things haven’t been going as well as we had intended them to go at the beginning of the season,” McConville said. “That’s probably true for a lot of us on the team and this gives us a chance to go all out and show what we can do.”

Because only the top 20 athletes on his team are traveling with him to track and field’s paradise, Dolan is very confident and expects big things.

“I am optimistic – these people have the opportunity to run with anybody in the country,” Dolan said. “These are our best; no one is there to struggle.”

The track on the University of Oregon campus earned its fame when Steve Prefontaine raced there in the ’70s. His record-setting races and his short life are the subject of legend in the world of track and field. It has been 31 years since Prefontaine’s untimely death in 1975 and athletes have worked to turn in their best times on this track ever since.

“Oregon is the Mecca of track and field,” Dolan said. “If you can’t do well there, you are in trouble.”