Expect a full team effort from the Gauchos this Friday at Cal State Fullerton as track and field gets set to compete in the Big West Challenge Cup.

Performing the long jump, Tori Usgaard jumps in the air. Christina DeMarzo / Daily Nexus

Performing the long jump, Tori Usgaard jumps in the air. Christina DeMarzo / Daily Nexus

UCSB will be pitted against conference rivals UC Irvine and Long Beach State in addition to the hosting Titans in what should be a heated battle for league bragging rights, despite taking place over the course of just one day.

“It’s nice. It’s a little bit [of a] low-key meet, but the energy is kind of big,” senior distance runner Shyan Vaziri said.

Friday’s events will be unlike any other meet the Gauchos have competed in this year.

“It’s not about running fast times, it’s about which school comes out on top,” Vaziri said. “When it’s all Big West schools, the rivalry kind of comes in, which is cool. You don’t really get that in track very often, so it’s a special meet. Even if the times aren’t super fast … there’s a lot of team spirit in that one [day].”

The women will look to continue their strong start to the season on Friday. They were undefeated in their first three outings of the season before a recent run of more developmentally focused meets.

Santa Barbara’s men, on the other hand, have struggled a bit to start the year with a few close losses to conference rivals, but they have shown some good improvement.

“We’re not very good, to be honest, right now, but there [have] been bright spots [including] a lot of young guys on the team who are kind of just learning their events and progressing really well,” Vaziri said.

Vaziri himself has been a very bright spot for the Gauchos this year, including a stellar performance last weekend in the mile event. The standout distance runner finished in 4:00.01, just a hundredth of a second away from a coveted four-minute mile.

“In the back of my head, I thought maybe I could rake four minutes, but I wasn’t sure how the race was going to go out, and I didn’t really know what kind of shape I was in because it [was] only, like, the third race of this season,” Vaziri said. “I just let the UCLA guys do all the work for the first three laps and then I felt really strong with a lap to go … My coach yelled at me, ‘You need to run a 57 last lap,’ and I just took off [with] everything I had.”

Despite being unable to reach the four-minute landmark this time, Vaziri’s showing at UCLA added yet another impressive page to his growing portfolio.

“That stung a lot, but in the end, once I calmed down from the initial disappointment, I realized it was a really fast time. It was a PR; I should be happy with the result for midseason,” Vaziri said.

While he is happy with his midseason progress for now, the senior has some lofty self-expectations going forward.

“For myself, I want to be in the NCAA final, I want to be an All-American and then I want to qualify for the Olympic trials. Those are my three big goals,” said Vaziri.

For now, though, the veteran will shift his focus to the team’s showing this Friday.

“It’s all about the team this week, so whatever the coach wants me to do, I’ll do it, and I’ll just want to score as many points as I can for the school,” Vaziri said.

This meet will be a big test for Santa Barbara, as it will attempt to get on track for the second half of the season.

“I’d love to see the team place really high at the Big West Championships at the end of the year. I think it’s just going to take a lot of progressing, everyone just really coming together,” Vaziri said.

The first step of that progression is this Friday, April 9 at the Big West Challenge starting at 3 p.m. at the Titan Track Complex in Fullerton, CA.


A version of this article appeared on page 9 of April 7, 2016’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.