It is often said in the sports world that rivalry matches bring out the best in athletes. After this weekend, sprinter Ryan Martin and the UCSB track and field team can attest to that maxim, as the freshman added a Big West Conference title to his already impressive resume.
The freshman phenom has been competing all season long for the top spot in the 800m in the Big West Conference, and for the most part, has been losing to Irvine’s Charles Jock. However, with the Conference title on the line, Martin stepped up his game to run a 1:49.85 and take first place over Jock by two hundredths of a second.
“It came down to the wire,” Martin said. “[It was] an all-out battle.”
As Jock is also a freshman, he and Martin have three more years to cultivate what is already an exciting rivalry.
Martin also anchored the Santa Barbara 4x400m relay team with sophomore Alvin Go, senior Jason Newland and senior Max Bellissimo. The Gauchos were ranked fourth coming into the meet, but after an impressive race, UCSB finished third place with a time of 3:10.56. Although the relay team earned All-Conference honors and ran the second-fastest time in Santa Barbara history, Martin called the race “bittersweet” as they narrowly missed out on qualifying for Regionals.
Senior thrower Scott Anderson capped his career off the right way, winning his event at the Big West Conference while putting his school record even further out of reach. Anderson threw 59-4.25 in the shot put to oust the competition, setting himself up for a big showing at nationals.
Junior distance runner Katie Voigtlander also had a terrific showing, running 10:48.29 in the steeplechase to take fourth place and earn five team points. Voigtlander admits she was dissatisfied with her results immediately following the race knowing she narrowly missed All-Conference honors, but has since come to terms with them.
The steeplechase field was immensely tough this year as eight Big West girls qualified for Regionals. Voigtlander came into the race seeded sixth and held her own to take fourth, behind three seniors. Now, the junior is optimistic about next year and is looking to use the trip to the Western Regional Tournament as experience for next year.
Sophomore sensation Barbara Nwaba, on the other hand, had a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde weekend. Nwaba qualified for Regionals in the high jump, clearing the 5-8.75 bar, and took second place to earn All-Conference honors, but then failed to qualify in the 400m hurdles — her best event. Nwaba took eighth place in the 400m hurdles with a time of 67.51, nearly seven seconds slower than her school record time of 60.93. Nwaba was disappointed and was quick to acknowledge her shortcomings.
“That was the most horrible race of my life,” Nwaba said.
The UCSB women’s 4×400 relay team also took third and set the fourth-fastest time in UCSB History. As the team consisted of all sophomores — Nwaba, Dominique Augusts, Lauren Kodama and Sheniece Vargas — the team believes the school record will fall by next year.
Junior pole-vaulter Scott Finley took third off a jump of 16-6.75, which was good enough to earn him All-Conference honors.
Deuces were wild for freshman thrower Irene Kujore as she took second place to earn two All-Conference honors in both the discus and hammer throw.
Junior distance runner Scott Smith rounded out the All-Conference team for UCSB as he took third in the 1500m and before taking second in the 5000m, barely missing out on first place by less than half a second. The junior, along with the rest of the Gauchos, will be looking to replicate their outstanding showings at the Western Regional Tournament, which takes place May 29 to 30 in Eugene, Ore.