UC Santa Barbara will head to Anteater Track Stadium at UC Irvine this weekend for the Big West Conference finals. The Gauchos are taking one of the largest groups of athletes to the meet and are looking to come out on top.
For the men’s division, Santa Barbara is sending several regional qualifiers, including junior distance runner Scott Smith, redshirt freshman Ryan Martin, senior thrower Scott Anderson and junior pole vaulter Scott Finley.
Smith has qualified for Regionals in both the 1500m and 5000m events this year. He aims to place in the top three in order to go All-Conference and earn as many team points for the chance at a team victory.
Martin has had one of the most successful freshman seasons ever for UCSB by qualifying for Regionals in the 800m and is ranked second in conference in both the 400m and 800m. His main goal, which he admits will be tough, is to dethrone Irvine’s Charles Jock as the conference leader.
“[Beating Jock] won’t be easy by any means,” Martin said, “but there’s a good chance because we’re pretty close.”
Martin will also compete in the 4×400 relay, along with sophomore Alvin Go amd seniors Max Bellissimo and Jason Newland. The tandem aims at a top three finish in order to go All-Conference, which will be no easy task as they currently sit fourth on the Big West depth chart.
Anderson is looking to not only win conference, but also to earn a spot in the Western Regionals. After throwing 58’8.5″ (17.89m) against Cal Poly, Anderson is the Big West leader and now owns the Santa Barbara UCSB school record.
Finley cleared 16’6.75″ (5.05m), qualifying for Regionals alongside freshman pole vaulter Derek Masterson, who has cleared 16’2″ this year.
The Gaucho women will be led by sophomore sensation Barbara Nwaba, who has had one of the most impressive seasons in school history. Nwaba will compete in the 4x100m relay, the 4×400 relay, the 100m hurdles, the 400m hurdles and the long jump in what will be an exhausting day for the second year in a row. She currently holds school records in both the 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles and is hopes to qualify for Regionals in the 400m hurdles and the long jump. She also looks to go All-Conference in several of her other events as well.
Junior distance runner Katie Voigtlander has also had a successful season, opening up the year by shaving 25 seconds off her steeplechase time. She has since qualified for Regionals and sits in second place on the all-time UCSB list. She is currently ranked fourth in conference and looks to place in the top three, which will be a difficult task due to the level of competition in the Big West. There are currently eight girls in conference who have qualified for Regionals in the steeplechase with a time under the 10:50 minute mark. Although she is not large in size, Voigtlander makes up for her physical frame with a big heart, which should help her to do well in the meet.
Sophomore pole vaulters Jennifer Brown and Missy Burley both consistently contribute to the team’s total points, rounding off Santa Barbara’s already deep roster. Both Gauchos are setting their sights high, looking to clear 12’6″, which is the regional qualifying mark.
Though several of the team’s goals may seem out of reach in light of previous competitions, the Adidas sponsored UCSB enters the meet undoubtedly keeping in mind that “impossible is nothing.”