Twenty of Santa Barbara’s top track and field athletes returned from Eugene, Ore. and Hayward Field after mixed results at the Oregon Invitational held over the weekend.
Perhaps the brightest moment for the Gaucho runners was junior distance runner Megan Lewis’s first place finish in the 5,000-meter run. Her time of 16:28.28 is the fastest Big West time and an NCAA Regionals qualifying mark.
“It was really exciting because I don’t get to win races very often,” Lewis said. “We usually just go for fast times.”
Lewis said that the field of competitors was not of the caliber she expected. Instead of latching onto a fast runner and following her lead, Lewis ended up being the leader for a large portion of the race and she controlled the pace of the pack.
“It was cool to win, but I really wanted a faster time,” Lewis said. “We were expecting the field to be a lot faster and I wouldn’t have had to be the leader.”
Fellow junior distance runner Stephanie Rothstein finished sixth in the event with a time of 16:44.88, also fast enough to earn an invitation to the NCAA Regionals held in May.
Saturday saw senior sprinter Kylie McCuen continue to burn up the track while finishing third with a NCAA Regionals qualifying mark of 23.79 in the 200-meter dash, and second with a time of 56.42 in the 400-meter dash. Junior hurdler Stellamarie Hall finished second in her section with a time of 15.40 in the 100-meter hurdles.
Despite the successes on the women’s side, there was little to celebrate on the men’s side. The highlights included sophomore thrower Matt Barkley who took fourth in the shot put Saturday with a throw of 53’01,” just farther than teammate and classmate Scott Anderson, who launched the shot put 52’08” to take fifth.
Junior Gaucho sprinter Ryan Donnelly finished third in the 400-meter dash with a time of 49.51 and took fourth in the 200-meter with a mark of 21.76. Big things were expected of senior distance runner Scott McConville who finished fifth in the men’s 1,500-meter run with his mark of 3:52.30.
“It was definitely a good experience for the team,” McConville said. “It was windy, cold, and just a lot of things that you don’t expect in time trials.”
The wind and cold weather were an issue for the Gauchos, as well as the type of competition that they faced. While the wind affected the sprinters, the slower competition slowed down the distance runners and forced them to change their strategies.
“We were coming there for fast times and big marks, but it ended up being a lot more head to head and good competition,” McConville said. “When there’s something that comes up like that, you just have to adjust and change your approach.”
The Gauchos will rest up for their upcoming home meet when they host Cal Poly in the UCSB Dual Meet this Saturday at Pauley Track.