After recent successful performances in the Cal/Nevada Championships and Cal Poly Invitational, UCSB’s track and field teams look to continue their winning ways as they travel to Fullerton today to compete in the Big West Challenge Cup. The Gauchos will face off against host Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and Long Beach State in various competitions.

Although this event takes place on Friday the 13th and the weather is expected to be challenging, Head Coach Pete Dolan is confident that no amount of bad luck or precipitation will deter his squads from performing admirably in this critical event.

“Twentieth Annual Big West Challenge (is) an important meet to all the participating teams … we’ve won it quite a few times,” Coach Dolan said. “Our goal is to win both, and we feel like we have a good shot of doing that. We’re a little worried about the weather right now, but that’s alright, Gauchos perform in any weather.”

The outdoor meet’s field events will begin at 2:30 p.m. with the hammer throw, and the track events will commence later in the day at 5 p.m. with the 3000m steeplechase. As the season has progressed, Coach Dolan has begun to implement a decreased practice schedule in order to keep his squads hungry in their pursuit of a victory and acknowledges that this meet is important for both the women’s and men’s seasons.

“This time of year, we’re beginning to train less and think more about competitions so we’re trying to be fresher for these meet … these are the times … when you really want to be on,” coach Dolan said.

The UCSB women’s track and field team will look to defend their Big West Challenge Cup title for two straight years after emerging victorious at the conclusion of last year’s events. Their previous combined total of 213.50 points in 2011 was good enough for first overall in the women’s competition, following excellent performances from current senior Andrea Jacobs (3000m steeplechase) and since-departed Jean Lightfoot (Throws) and Amanda Moreno (1500m).

On the men’s side, the Gauchos travel to Fullerton anxious to continue their recent undefeated win streak in 2012 sports competition. Following victories in the Cal/Nevada Championship, Cal Poly Invite, Riverside Dual Meet and their home opener, the UCSB men’s track and field team now faces a formidable opponent in defending men’s champion Long Beach State. In the mind of Coach Dolan, the 49ers are the main obstacle standing in the way of a victory in the Big West Challenge Cup.

“For our conference championship hopes, you know Long Beach State … won last year, they’re the defending champs,” Dolan said. “So if we can match them at this meet, come close to them or beat them at this meet then … our fortunes will definitely increase as far as the possibility of winning a conference championship.”

Defeating Long Beach State would be a tremendous accomplishment, but in the big picture only serves as a stepping-stone to the real goal that both the men and women’s teams are striving to attain: the upcoming Big West Championship.

“Let’s just say it’s the second-most important meet of the year for us,” coach Dolan said. “In all sports there are stepping stones. … If we win this one, we can win the next one.”