The UCSB track and field team once again received impressive individual performances from several of its athletes, but as a team fell well short of repeating its dominance over the field in this weekend’s 16th annual Big West Challenge Cup.

Both the men’s and women’s squads entered the meet as the defending cup champions, with the women holding five consecutive cup victories. Big West opponents Long Beach State, UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton all managed to pass the Gauchos in the team standings, leaving both UCSB teams at the bottom of the point rankings. Long Beach runners and throwers had a great day, leading them to dual victories on both the men’s and women’s sides.

Despite the disappointing finish by the team, spectacular individual performances were plentiful for the Gauchos. Senior distance runner Bethany Nickless joined the impressive list of Gauchos who have already qualified for the NCAA Regionals by running a first-place time of 10:44.21. In just her first time running the steeplechase this season, Nickless crushed the competition, finishing well over 100 meters in front of the second-place finisher.

The Gauchos continued their dominance in the steeplechase on the men’s side, with NCAA Regional qualifier senior Michael Powers pacing the field with a time of 9:11.17, en route to a first-place finish. Powers led the race from its outset, followed closely by fellow Gaucho sophomore Dillon Brook, who came in second with a 9:28.16 time.

In the middle-distance events, the Gauchos received a strong showing by junior Salim Benmohamed in the 800-meter run. Benmohamed set a new personal record with a time of 1:52.83, but was nosed out at the finish line, coming just five-hundredths of a second behind UC Irvine’s Tim Murphy. Hurdler Elmer Guzman took home a fourth-place finish in the 400m hurdles, clocking in with a season-best 54.18.

In the field events, the Gaucho women continued their dominance in the high jump, while the men’s throws squad received another 1-2 finish in the shot-put. Both sophomore Christina Nowak and junior Jane Doolittle cleared 5’7″ to give the Gauchos the first-place tie. Seniors Jeff Stewart and Matt Barkley once again finished first and second with throws of 55’8.25″ and 54’2.50.”