For most of the UCSB track and field team, their season ends this weekend. Today and tomorrow, the Gauchos will be competing against the same conference rivals they have seen all season, as the Big West Conference Championships represent the culmination of a rigorous season for some, or the stepping-stone to the NCAA National Championships. All eight Big West schools with track programs will converge at Cal State Northridge’s Matador Track Complex to decide the champions.
Junior Elmer Guzman will be the lone male Gaucho running in the 400-meter hurdles this weekend. Coming off her ninth-place finish in last week’s Big West Multi-Events Championship, senior Lauri Schakett will be competing in the women’s 400m hurdles. Other Gaucho qualifiers in the sprints include junior Jason Newland in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes for the men’s squad, with freshman Sheneice Vargas running in the 400m with a qualifying time of just under 57 seconds.
While the sprints may prove to be a weak spot for the Gauchos with just a small number of qualifiers, their strength lies with their distance team, throwing squad and women’s high jumpers.
The women high jump duo of freshman Christina Nowak and junior Jane Doolittle are ranked as the conference’s third and fourth place seeds, respectively, heading into the championships and look to score points for the Gaucho overall team competition. Both jumpers have cleared 5’8.75″ this season, an NCAA Regional qualifying height.
The Gauchos boast one of the strongest long distance teams in the Big West. Led by two-time Big West steeplechase champion sophomore Bethany Nickless and a vast field of other strong runners, UCSB will be very competitive in all distance events. Qualifies in the distance events include seniors Chris Ashley and Tim Aukshunas in both the 5000m and 10,000m, Michael Powers in the men’s steeplechase and Danielle Domenichelli in the women’s 5000-meter run.
UCSB’s dominant throws squad will take center stage in the middle of the track, with Jeff Stewart, the defending Big West Champion in the shot put, and Matt Barkley leading the way, the Gauchos look to have a strong showing in the throwing-heavy-objects competitions.
Action begins today with field events starting at 9:00 a.m. and on Saturday at noon.