The Gauchos once again have the Big West Athlete of the Week, and once again will be splitting up to compete in two meets this weekend.

Senior distance runner Bethany Nickless was awarded the honor after finishing with a time of 10:32 in the 3000 meter steeplechase while competing in last weekend’s Payton Jordan Invitational.

“It’s a pretty cool award to win, and I wasn’t really happy with my race so it was surprising,” Nickless said. “I really had no idea until someone said ‘congratulations.'”

Nickless is the two-time defending Big West Champion in the steeplechase, with aspirations of making it a three-peat.

“I’m currently ranked fourth in the conference in the steeplechase, but we are all really close. We’re all within four seconds of each other,” Nickless said. “Personally, I just like racing, it really is the thrill of the head-to-head competition that motivates me. I feel like I do better when it is head-to-head, and I am challenged.”

With the season winding down, part of the UCSB track and field team will start its Big West Conference championship run, while others will try to qualify for them. Two UCSB athletes will be heading to Northridge’s Matador Track to compete in the Big West Multi-Event Championship, while the rest of the team will head to the Oxy Invitational at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Freshman Nick deBeaubien and senior Lauri Schakett will be the two Gauchos competing in the Multis this afternoon, with the second part of the competitions finishing on Saturday morning. Schakett will be participating in the heptathlon, an event comprised of the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, javelin, as well as three other events. DeBeaubien will be the lone Gaucho in the decathlon, a ten-event competition that includes pole vault, javelin and the 1500 meter run. These events will be the Gauchos’ first chance at scoring points towards the overall team competition, which will take place next Friday and Saturday, also in Northridge.

As for the rest of the Gauchos, tomorrow’s Oxy Invitational will represent the last chance for the them to score last-minute qualifying marks, both for NCAA Regionals as well as for next weekend’s conference championships.