The UCSB track and field team returns to the oval this week with two events scheduled. First up for the Gauchos is one of the largest meets in the country with the Mt. San Antonio College Relays, which only a select number of Gauchos are signed up to attend. The majority of the UCSB track team will head down to compete in the Azusa Pacific Invitational, today, against competition from all over the nation.
The Mt. SAC Relays is one of the largest events on the West Coast and takes place over the course of several days. The small Gaucho squad is competing in events held both yesterday and today. The group traveling to the relays is made up of a list of Gaucho stars that includes NCAA Regional qualifiers Bethany Nickless in the steeplechase, Chris Ashley in the 10,000 meter run and Danielle Domenichelli in the 1500 meter run.
“We’re looking for some big marks, especially in the 10K,” Assistant Coach Avery Blackwell said. “We have guys like Chris Ashley and Tim Aukshunas, two of our seniors, looking to qualify for nationals in that event. For Mt. SAC, we are mainly just taking our distance runners who need to have more competition in those longer events, especially in the 10K which they don’t have at every meet.”
The rest of the Gauchos will be competing today in Azusa with teams like New Mexico, Boise State, UC Riverside and many more schools that will compete alongside unattached and open entry runners and throwers.
“It’s an open invitational, so anyone can go, and we have people in nearly every event. But for us, this is more of an in-between, with the people resting up and running longer or shorter races trying to get prepared for the rest of the season,” Baker said.
The Gauchos will hope to improve on last week’s fourth place finish at the Big West Challenge Cup, where they received some spectacular outings from the throws squad with the consistency of Jeff Stewart and Matt Barkley, who once again finished first and second in shot-put. Other Gauchos hoping to build off of season bests are Nickless in the steeplechase and junior Elmer Guzman, who ran a season best 54.18 in the 400m hurdles.