For only the second time this season, the UCSB track and field team will have the opportunity to show its skills in front of a home crowd when it plays host to Cal Poly on Saturday in the Battle of the Central Coast III, known as Dual III.
Unlike a typical track and field event, which consists of runners from multiple schools competing for individual marks in order to qualify for NCAA competition, Saturday’s contest will pit the athletes from each school against each other with pride on the line.
“Dual meets tend to be a lot more intense,” senior thrower Gabe Mann said. “It gives you something to focus on.”
Perhaps one of the more compelling of these head-to-head matchups will be between Mann and Philip Borjas from Cal Poly in the javelin throw. Mann and Borjas faced off earlier in the season, with Mann besting Borjas at Cal Poly. However, the former Gaucho center fielder has been dealing with aches and pains lately, which might put him at a slight disadvantage.
“I’m not going to worry about him because I know he’s going to throw well,” Mann said. “I’m just going to go out there and focus and try and deal with the pain. … I know that when I throw, it will be like I’m throwing the javelin into my own back, but I think I’m prepared for that.”
On the women’s side, Santa Barbara will have more than a challenge in the form of distance runner Deirdre Byrne. The senior from Ireland leads the NCAA in the 1,500-meter run. Junior distance runner Stephanie Rothstein, the 11th-ranked woman in the 10,000-meter will attempt to best Byrne when she competes in a much shorter distance than she usually runs.
Senior Kylie McCuen – last year’s Big West champion in the women’s 400-meter dash – will look to continue her dominant performance in the sprints. The Brea, Calif., native will be competing in the 400, the 200-meter dash along with the always-exciting 4×100 meter relay.
The Gaucho women hold a slight advantage against Cal Poly in the season’s performance list in the 4×100, with their fastest time .16 seconds faster than that of the Mustangs. The close times should make this event the most exciting of Saturday’s showdown between the two squads.
Senior distance runner Scott Brandos returns to the track for Santa Barbara after missing the majority of this season due to surgery and a battle with kidney stones. Brandos is the meet record holder with a 9:00.32 mark and has a chance to regain his position on top of the board.
“I’m just hoping to get a solid race in before conference and build confidence,” Brandos said. “It should be a very exciting day with a lot of good competition. Cal Poly is a great distance school and some of the best runners in the Big West will be out there Saturday.”
Overall, the events are relatively even for both sides and the winner may be decided in the final event of the meet, the 4×400-meter relay. Santa Barbara is favored in the 4×400, with the women’s side owning a seasonal best time of 3:46.59 – compared to the Mustangs’ 4:01.40 – and the men holding a three-second advantage with an impressive time of 3:15.72, which was recorded when these teams last saw each other in the Big West Challenge Cup. That mark was the deciding factor of that competition and it may turn out to be the same for this one.
Events kick off at noon on Saturday, April 29, at Pauley Track on what is predicted to be a cool, cloudy and dry Santa Barbara day.