From March 9-11, UC Santa Barbara hosted its first outdoor track and field meet in two years, which included a full heptathlon and decathlon. The main meet on March 11, the UCSB Invite, hosted teams from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine, while the multis competition, lasting from March 9-10, attracted athletes from as far as Maine. 

Nexus File Photo

The Gauchos took first place in both multi events, with junior Jessica Swalve finishing on top for the women’s heptathlon with a personal best score of 4940 points and junior Matthew Molina winning the men’s decathlon with 6746 points. The multis are two of the most grueling events in all of track and field. Over the span of two days, the female multis compete in seven events (the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, the 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin and the 800 meters) while the men compete in 10 events (the 100-meter dash, discus, pole vault, the 110-meter hurdles, the 400-meter dash, shot put, long jump, high jump, javelin and the 1500 meters). 

Scoring in the heptathlon and decathlon is notoriously confusing. While the athletes compete against each other, placing in individual events does not affect their score; instead, scores are calculated using performance tables that are based on the world record of each event. So, while one athlete could win four events out of seven, the athlete who places second in six events might win overall. In the multis, it pays to be average across the board rather than stellar in one or two events.

Swalve took first in three events: shot put, where she threw a personal best of 12.34 meters; high jump, with a jump of 1.58 meters; and javelin, with a throw of 38.48 meters. She also jumped a personal best in long jump with a mark of 5.21 meters. Sophomore Sofia Bailey also did well in the heptathlon, placing second overall with a score of 4603 points. Bailey also earned personal bests in the shot put and high jump, and took first place in the 800 meters with a time of 2:23.90.

In the decathlon, Molina also took first in three events: the 110 meters hurdles, with a time of 15.22 seconds; long jump, with a mark of 7.09 meters; and the 1500 meters, with a personal best of 4:35.27. Senior Peter Michiels placed third overall in the decathlon with a compiled score of 6619 points, followed closely by senior Joshua Godfrey and freshman Brad Thomas in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Assistant Coach Hope Bender, who works closely with the heptathletes and decathletes,  commented on their performance, saying, “The whole group did an awesome job staying focused and competing hard for two days, and we were rewarded with PRs left and right.” Bender herself is a UCSB track and field alum who recently placed ninth at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in the heptathlon.

Under the lights on Friday night, the rest of the UCSB track team competed to win. Though the meet wasn’t scored overall, UCSB had a strong showing in almost every event. Standouts for the distance team include senior Brian Schulz, whose 13:59.46 5000-meter run took second place by just 1.24 seconds to Cal Poly’s Xian Shively. Schulz’s impressive mark now stands as the third-best 5000-meter time in Gaucho history. Senior Nick Randazzo took first place in the 3000-meter steeplechase with a strong opening time of 9:04.22. 

In the sprints, junior Brendan Fong ran a collegiate best of 48.65 in the 400 meters to place first. In the throws, senior Gabby Sanchez threw a personal best in the hammer throw, with a mark of 52.80 meters that earned her second place. Junior Amanda Spear followed closely in third place with another personal best throw of 51.33 meters. Sanchez also placed second in the discus and shot put. 

Even better results are promised ahead. “Our team as a whole had two great early season meets — at Long Beach State and at home — and now we’re taking our focus forward into the bulk of our regular season, taking a week off and then competing the next four weeks in a row. Our athletes will really start to hit their stride, and we’re expecting to see Big West Conference and regional qualifiers coming out of almost every meet we do,” Bender said.

Next on the Gauchos’ meet schedule is the Aztec Invite at San Diego State, starting Friday March 25.