Nine members from the UCSB men’s track team will head to BYU to compete in the preliminary qualifying round for the NCAA playoffs today, followed by the final events on Saturday.

UCSB will be represented in Utah by distance runners sophomore Chris Ashley and junior Mike Chavez. They will be competing in the 5,000-meter and 3,000-meter steeplechase competitions, respectively, today.

Ashley leads the Big West in his event and set a 3,000-meter personal best earlier this season to win his race with a time of 14:03.65, just below the Regional qualifying mark of 14:10. His 2006 season performance places him sixth in the Western Region and 30th in the nation.

Today, Ashley will look to secure an automatic bid to Sacramento, Calif., but he has a good chance to earn an at-large berth if he finishes in the top 12.

In the field, the Gauchos are led by high jumpers junior Kent Centers and sophomore Jacob Maus. This year is Centers’s second appearance in the regional championships, after posting a personal best of 6’11” and finishing with an All-Conference second place in the 2003 Regionals.

For the shot put, UCSB rallies behind sophomore thrower Jeff Stewart, who tossed a stellar 56’05.25″ to win the Big West title. Currently, he sits tied for 15th place overall.

Sophomore thrower Matt Barkley will also join Stewart in the shot put this weekend alongside sophomore thrower Scott Anderson.

In order to secure a spot to the NCAA National Championships in Sacramento in two weeks, athletes must place in the top five within their event this weekend to earn an automatic bid.

Those who place between sixth and 12th in the weekend’s events will be placed in an at-large pool along with all the other contenders from the Western Region. From the pool, the top six to nine athletes with the best 2006 overall season records will move on to the championship round in Sacramento.

Field events begin today at 11 a.m., followed by the track events slated to start at 2 p.m., with the finals Saturday set for 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in the field and track, respectively.
-Nexus Staff Report