The entire UCSB track and field team returns to action this weekend as the Gauchos hope to tame the Mustangs in a Big West Conference dual meet at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. The Gauchos have yet to compete against the Mustangs this season and are looking to get a sneak peek at the competition before the Big West Championships in two weeks.
“They have a pretty solid squad this year, and we haven’t raced against them, so it will be interesting to see how it all stacks up,” Assistant Coach Avery Blackwell said. “They have a strong distance squad, so we should have tough competition there, and they look a little stronger on the sprints so we will have to take the throws and distance events.”
Distance and throwing are really the Gauchos strong events. With a distance squad led by Chris Ashley in the 5000 meter and Michael Powers in the steeplechase for the men and Danielle Domenichelli in the 5000 meter and Bethany Nickless in the steeplechase on the women’s side, the Gauchos are a force to be reckoned with when running over four laps around the track. With many of UCSB’s athletes having personal bests during last week’s Oregon Relays, this time around the conditions may be a bit different.
“Most events are not going to be as fast as last week,” Blackwell said. “Cal Poly gets pretty windy, so it becomes more tactical, and in the sprints you get wind-aided races, which make it less legitimate. If it’s not windy we look to get more good marks in the distance races.”
As for the field events, the Gauchos sport a dominating throws squad and some high-class jumpers. The senior duo of Jeff Stewart and Matt Barkley in the shot-put have been out in front of the competition all year, finishing one-two in nearly every event against conference opponents. Sophomore thrower Jean Lightfoot, highlights a strong throw squad for the women’s team. Her 149’01” toss in the hammer throw last week was good enough for a second place finish in her section.
Junior jumper Jane Doolittle looks to continue her strong season. She is coming off of a career best performance in the high jump when she leapt an astounding 5’8.75″. As the season winds down for the Gauchos, they are looking to get every last drop of performance out of their runners to prepare them for the conference championships, and then on to the NCAA Championships.
“It is hard to know who will bust out with a great performance; it just comes to that time in the season where you have to lay it all out on the track, and it’s all about who wants it,” Blackwell said.