The UCSB men’s track and field team will look to continue their run of successful outings as they compete in the Big West Championships this weekend.
The Big West Championships began Saturday at Cal State Northridge with the heptathlon and decathlon events, and continues this weekend with the individual events. Coming off of a dual meet win against Cal Poly two weeks ago, the Gauchos are confident and well rested.
“It’s all about rest,” Head Coach Pete Dolan said. “The whole idea is to fool the body a little bit. It’s the normal routine to keep the body on track, but it’s easier to rest the body for the race.”
Santa Barbara, which finished in third place last year, has contenders in every event. Defending champions Northridge and Long Beach State look to be the Gauchos’ main competition. Although UCSB may be the underdog, the men’s championship is up for grabs.
“We do have a chance,” Dolan said. “I’m a realist. Long beach is really strong and Northridge is real strong as well. We finished third last year, and I think we’re better than we were last year. If our guys perform up to expectations, we should do really well.”
One man expected to do well is sophomore distance runner Chris Ashley. Ashley is the highest-ranked Gaucho coming into the championships, with the best preliminary time in the 5,000-meter in the conference. Ashley, who is also running the 1,500, said he is currently ranked 34th in the country for the 5,000.
“I’m very confident in the 5k,” Ashley said. “I’m running the 1,500 before, that would be the only thing that would hinder my performance in the 5K. I’ve got a twelve second margin in the prelim times, but it’s a strategic race, it’s not all-out.”
While the distance events are a strong point for the Gauchos, with senior Scott McConville ranked fourth in the 1,500-meter and junior Mike Chavez ranked second in the 3,000-meter, the sprinters are in good shape as well. Freshman Kris Shirley, whose 400-meter performance made the seventh spot on the UCSB all-time list two weeks ago, is ranked second in that event. Junior Ryan Donnelly, an NCAA Regionals qualifier last year, is ranked in the top ten for both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Donnelly will also be competing in the long jump, an event in which he is ranked ninth.
In the field events, senior javelin thrower Gabe Mann will continue his yearlong battle with junior Aris Borjas from Cal Poly. Mann’s best mark has him in first place, two feet farther than Borjas and 10 feet over the rest of the field.
The shot put and the hammer throw both look to be strong events for UCSB. Sophomores Matt Barkley, Scott Anderson and Jeff Stewart are ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in the shot put, respectively, and Stewart and sophomore Reif Lawson are ranked third and fourth in the hammer.
The Big West Track and Field Championships begin Friday at 9 a.m. in Northridge.