While the season ended two weekends ago at the Big West Championships for most of the UCSB track and field team, several athletes head to Austin, Texas, to participate in the first round of the NCAA Championships beginning today.
Eighteen athletes, 11 men and seven women, will represent UCSB in the first round of the NCAA Championships, a three-day competition ending Saturday. This event features the best athletes from the West region.
“[There are] a lot of talented athletes from different schools,” redshirt junior Barbara Nwaba said. “We need better marks and better times. It’s good competition because everyone wants to go to finals.”
While athletes want to post solid times, this meet serves as a stepping stone for the NCAA Championship Finals in Des Moines, Iowa, from June 6 to 9.
“The whole goal of this weekend is to qualify,” senior Ryan Martin said. “I don’t want to end my season here. I have to make sure I get through to the next the round.”
Therefore, the Gauchos must change from a team mindset to an individual mindset.
“It’s not about going to watch your teammates; it’s about taking care of your own business,” Martin said. “You have to focus on yourself because for the most part, everyone else is doing the same thing. There are very few schools going for a national title.”
On the men’s side, one athlete to keep an eye on is Martin, who will participate in the 800-meter run and ranks No. 2 in the nation behind senior Charles Jock from UC Irvine.
Martin will also participate in the 4×400 meter relay team, which is composed of senior Mikael Powers, sophomore Karlon Johnson, sophomore Jordan Scott and Martin as the anchor.
“Our 4×400 team is actually going to be really good,” Martin said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll get a school record there.”
Also with a shot of making finals is senior Michael Guerra, who will compete in the javelin throw.
“I think he’s ranked 20th [in the West],” Martin said. “So if he meets four or five guys, he would also move on to Iowa, which would be huge.”
On the women’s side, redshirt junior Irene Kujore will compete in the discus and shot put. Another Gaucho to keep an eye on is senior Justine Diaz, who will also run the 800-meter run. Diaz ranks No. 36 in the nation in the event and is the sixth seed this weekend.
“Twelve [athletes] will move out of Texas and into Iowa,” Martin said. “So she’s right there to move on.”
While Nwaba has already qualified for the Championship finals in the heptathlon, she will compete this weekend in the high jump and 100-meter hurdles. Nwaba is tied for seventh in the nation in the high jump.
“My main goal is to qualify for high jump and get a PR in the 100-meter hurdles,” Nwaba said.