This is a pivotal weekend for the UCSB men’s and women’s track and field teams. Eleven Gauchos will fly down to Austin, Texas tomorrow and compete in their final event at the NCAA West Preliminary Championships. After a full week of rest and preparation, all eyes will be on this talented squad to come out swinging and make a statement against some of the best collegiate athletes in the nation.
UCSB’s performance in each competition is crucial in its survival as it faces the brink of elimination. The NCAA first round is a preliminary contest that selects the top 48 athletes in open events and top 24 relay teams from each region. Held at two sites, Austin (west) and Jacksonville (east), competition will be cut down until the top 12 athletes and relay teams remain standing. These athletes will then advance to the NCAA final round June 10–13 in Eugene, Oregon.
Head Coach Pete Dolan is set to utilize five newly crowned Big West Champions while in Texas this Thursday. These athletes have proven themselves throughout the course of this season as four Gauchos’ clinched a spot in the top twenty-rankings of the West region.
On the women’s side, the athletes that will be competing in this weekend’s events are Victoria Tsolis, Jessica Johnson, Jessica Emde, Danielle Moreno and Melissa Rake.
Tsolis will kick things off for the Gauchos in the 1,500m competition. The junior runner finished fourth overall at the Big West Championship and comes into the event ranking 26th in the nation. She also holds the No. 2 spot all-time in school history in the 1,500 with a time of 4:21.95. Her first race will take place at 5:30 p.m. in hopes of qualifying for Saturday’s final at 6:30 p.m.
Senior distance runner Moreno hopes to finish her last ride on a strong note. This is Moreno’s third NCAA Regional appearance in the 10,000m event. Moreno recently earned her first Big West title this year at UCR with a steady time of 37:33.52. She also recorded her best time in the 10k at the Stanford Invitational with a time of 34:23.18, a finish that now ranks fourth in UCSB history. Races for the 10,000m event will begin on Thursday at 9 p.m.
On the men’s side, Bryan Guijarro, Adam Avila and Bryce Rausa will get things going for the distance events while Thomas Gore-Schreck, Matthew Kuskey and Albert Hughes will compete in the field events.
Entering the last event of his collegiate career, Hughes looks to leave it all out on the field in the hammer competition. The senior thrower has exceeded expectations both on and off the field this year, receiving the Big West Scholar Athlete of the Year, Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Athlete of the Year and the UCSB Golden Eagle award.
To add on to his iconic season, Hughes secured 18th place in the NCAA West Region at the UCR Spring Track Classic with an impressive toss of 209’3. The three-time Big West runner-up currently holds third place all-time in UCSB history in the hammer.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of May 28, 2015’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.