The UCSB men’s track team was disappointed at the Big West Track & Field Championships due to some key injuries, but left the weekend with a positive outlook as new faces stepped up their game for the Gauchos.
“It was disappointing in team placing but I think individually a lot of guys stepped up and did really well,” junior distance runner Micah Tyhurst said.
The Gauchos, who finished in fourth place, were left empty-handed in some of their strongest events due to injury. Sophomore sprinter Max Bellissimo was injured in the last practice before the Gauchos headed to Cal State Northridge for the meet, and junior sprinter and jumper Ryan Donnelly suffered an injury during the long jump finals. Both athletes were favored to do well in the multiple events they were competing in, and their injuries were a big loss for UCSB.
However, other members of the team picked up a lot of the slack from the injuries. One of the big standouts of the weekend was sophomore thrower Jeff Stewart, who took a victory in the shot put and placed fifth in the hammer throw. UCSB Head Coach Pete Dolan said that Stewart was not favored to win, but nonetheless was a big surprise and had a great day.
“It went really well for me.” Stewart said. “I was just pumped about what happened, I was glad that I could help out the team and get some points. Everything seemed to click, and every throw went farther and farther.”
The distance runners, who have done well this year for the Gauchos, scored a lot of points in Northridge. Tyhurst won the 10,000-meter in a race that that Dolan said was the most exciting of the day.
“Throughout the entire race I was feeling pretty confident about being able to kick it and beat the field,” Tyhurst said. “With three laps to go I jumped out with three guys from Cal Poly, slowed down to let them work more and then I just basically put my head down and ran away with it.”
Tyhurst also placed fourth in the 5,000-meter, behind third place sophomore Chris Ashley. Ashley had a good day, with a fourth place finish in the 1,500-meter. Junior Mike Chavez scored his fair share of points as well, with a second place in both the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 1,500-meter.
“Our three distance runners really showed up for us. I told them they had to, and they did,” Dolan said. “Those were huge points. Those guys really came through for us.”
The injuries for the Gauchos lost points in events that could have really scored big. Bellisimo was slated to run in the 4×100 relay, an event that UCSB felt very confident about.
“That’s the most haunting part of the weekend, the 4×100.” Dolan said. “[Bellissimo] hurt himself at the last workout before we left. He strained his hamstring, it wasn’t torn.” Dolan said. “He made it through his race but that was as far as his leg could go. Sometimes you can’t do your best, so you just figure out a way to score points.”
Donnelly was supposed to compete in the long jump and the 100- and 200-meter sprints, but hurt himself during the long jump finals, before he started to try to put in a really good mark.
“I wanted to run that 100 and 200 so bad, but that’s the way it is sometimes,” Donnelly said. “I think those points would have contributed nicely. Yeah, we could have done a lot better, but a lot of people still did really well.”
While the season is over for most of the Gaucho track team, those members who qualified for the NCAA Regional Championships will continue training for the next two weeks before traveling to Provo, Utah for the Regionals, which begin May 26.