The UCSB track and field team looks to follow up last weekend’s strong effort that saw three Gauchos qualify for the NCAA Regionals while competing in the Big West Challenge Cup today at UC Irvine’s Anteater Stadium.

“All the meets from here on out are big,” senior distance runner Bethany Nickless said. “We’re looking to get [personal records] and see what the competition is going to be like at conference. We definitely want to go out and beat our local competition, especially heading towards conference championships.”

Both Gaucho squads are looking to repeat last year’s success, in which the Gaucho women won the event for a fifth straight time, while the Gaucho men captured their first ever cup win. Running next to UCSB in the meet will be Big West rivals Long Beach State, UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton.

“Going for six [Big West Challenge Cups] in a row doesn’t add pressure; we just want to keep the streak going,” Nickless said. “We haven’t exactly had the best season so far, so it will be important to go out and continue to improve. You never know if everyone can go out and compete, anything is possible when you just go out, no performance is guaranteed; we just hope to have a good day.”

In the Big West preseason coaches poll, the UCSB men’s team was voted to finish fourth and the women’s team was voted to finish third out of the eight-team conference. UCSB’s prospects of repeating cup victories look promising, as LBSU is the only team in this weekend’s meet voted ahead of the Gauchos in the preseason poll.

The Gauchos look to get strong performances from their impressive distance squad, featuring NCAA Regional qualifiers Chris Ashley and Michael Powers on the men’s squad with Danielle Domenichelli and Nickless, last year’s Big West steeplechase champion.

“We know it’s just another meet, and we know what we need to do. It’s a little different because it’s such a close comparison to conference and we need to be ready,” Nickless said.