UCSB men’s and women’s track and field teams will each send six athletes to Lawrence, Kan. this weekend to compete for a chance at a berth in the 2016 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
This weekend’s NCAA West Regional will begin this Thursday, May 26 through Saturday, May 28 at Rock Chalk Park at the University of Kansas.
The top-48 athletes from the West region in each event will meet in Kansas at the same time as the top-48 from the East in each event will be convening in Jacksonville, Fla. Only the top 12 from each region in each event will advance to the event’s schedule in Oregon on June 8-11.
Two of the best chances for UCSB athletes to advance to the national round come from the same event: the 1500m races. Two of the Gauchos’ three highest individual event rankings appear in this race.
Senior Shyan Vaziri is the highest seed of any UCSB athlete in each of their respective events at No. 9 in the men’s 1500 with an impressive qualifying time of 3:42.23. Assistant Coach Peter Van Beurden and the rest of the team/coaching staff are excited to see what he has in store for them this weekend.
“I can really speak on Shyan’s behalf that his goal is to be there with the top guys and to make it all the way to the final rounds of nationals,” Van Beurden said. “I think he’s definitely going to be focused and confident heading into these rounds, and he has some experience too.”
Vaziri is one of three total athletes that will represent Santa Barbara in the preliminary round of the 1500, including somewhat of a surprise qualifier in junior George Baier (3:45.56) in the No. 45 slot on the men’s side as well.
The third Gaucho qualifier in the event is grad student Victoria Tsolis on the women’s side, who boasts a No. 15 ranking in her best event with a UCSB record qualifying time of 4:19.02.
Both Tsolis and Vaziri have had their sights set on nationals all season long, and now that they are both just one step away, it’s become a much more realistic goal.
“I think the best shot [might be with] Shyan and Tori, just because they have all that experience, that championship experience, and they kind of know how to run their race,” Van Beurden said. “They have that finishing kick that’s necessary to make it through the round.”
Another athlete who has set herself up to have a great shot at the next round is senior high jumper Jessica Emde, who is looking to get to nationals for the first time in what will be her third regionals appearance. Emde is ranked highest of all the Gaucho women with a No. 14 seed that she earned with a qualifying leap of 1.79m in her event.
“I think that she finally has the tools that she needs to survive a meet like this,” Assistant Coach Cody Fleming said.
Other Gaucho athletes qualifying for this weekend include three javelin throwers: juniors Matthew Kuskey and Darion Williams for the men along with senior Melissa Rake for the women.
“My ‘jav’ throwers are healthy, their approaches are on and as a javelin thrower, you can’t ask for anything more than that,” Fleming said.
The last two spots on the men’s qualifying group are filled by sophomore Jeremy Franklin in the hammer throw and junior Myles McDonald in the 400m hurdles.
The women’s qualifying squad also includes junior Maxine Goyette in the 3,000m steeplechase, freshman Sierra Emrick in the Pole Vault and upstart freshman qualifier Alivia Schlueter in the triple jump.
Head Coach Pete Dolan is excited to see what his athletes can do this weekend with the opportunity to put themselves in nationals.
“Top 48 in the west, top 48 in the East. Nobody gets through on a pass, nobody gets a prior PR, it’s just like you’ve got to compete on that day [to] make it through,” Dolan explained. “That’s the coolest thing about the meet. If you’re on, you’re going. If you’re not on, forget about it.”
Preliminary round competition will kick off this Thursday, May 26 at noon with the men’s hammer and the women’s javelin.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of May 26, 2016’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.