Santa Barbara, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara Track and Field hosted the Big West Challenge Cup this past Friday against some of the top teams in the conference under the lights of the home Pauley Track and Field Facility. After taking the team title for three years straight the women would finally lose their dominance to Cal State Fullerton, taking third overall behind the Titans as well as Long Beach State. The men's side would also take third with Long Beach taking the men's title.
Cal State Fullerton 192
Long Beach State 178.5
UC Santa Barbara 176.5
UC Irvine 115
Long Beach State 202.5
Cal State Fullerton 193
UC Santa Barbara 163.5
UC Irvine 100
Though disappointed to lose on home turf, Interim Head Track and Field Coach Gray Horn retained a positive outlook as UCSB looks towards hosting the Big West Conference Championships in May. "I've never been part of a championship caliber team that didn't face some sort of adversity," he stated. "We didn't walk away with the trophy today, but we learned a lot about ourselves. I can't wait to get back to work on Monday."
Peng No. 5 All-Time in Triple Jump, Double Hurdle Victories for Bender
Senior Cassidy Peng has been making the most of her final season with yet another improvement in the triple jump where she took the win with a mark of 12.12m (+1.2 m/s). With a slight improvement on her 12.05m jump from the Aztec Invite, she moved to No. 5 on the UCSB All-Time List after already moving up to No. 6 just two weeks ago. In addition to this, she won the pole vault in a new season's best mark of 3.80m and took second in the long jump in 5.92m (+1.8 m/s), matching her long jump best she set just last week at UCLA. At the time of this writing, she's ranked within the top five in the Big West Conference for all three events thanks to perhaps the greatest triple she's ever pulled off in her career as a Gaucho.
Reminding the conference how formidable she can be in both hurdle events, senior Hope Bender won the 100m and 400m hurdles in respective times of 13.59 (+2.0 m/s) and 59.60 respectively. In addition, she took fourth in the flat 100m in a time of 12.06 (+1.6 m/s), finishing behind some of the top returners from last year's conference championships in the process. At the time of this writing, she is now ranked second in the 100m hurdles and first in the 400m hurdles in the Big West.
In the men's steeplechase freshman Jack Landgraf faced a tall order by taking on the top three steeplechasers in the Big West, Fullerton pair Jorge Sanchez and Athony Alfaro as well as Long Beach State's Michael Simpson. Faced with no other option but to hang on to the leading group, the young Gaucho would trail just behind the leaders all the way up to the final lap. He was eventually dropped with 300m to go but the freshman was heavily rewarded with a 15 second personal best time of 9:16.68.
The men's 800 had redshirt junior James Douglass secure first place in heat one with a season's best time of 1:54.64. Going through the first lap in second to last in the eight man field, Douglass put on a crowd pleasing final 200m passing every competitor in the field to win, beating the second place finisher by over a full second. In heat two, true freshman Ian Hurlburt would finally put things together for his best race of the season where he won in a time of 1:55.40, fast enough to beat second place in the first heat and receive full team points for that event.
Twins Peter and Graham Michiels went up against two of the top three high jumpers in the conference, Long Beach State's 2017 Outdoor NCAA Championship Qualifier Vincent Calhoun and Fullerton's Marcel Sylvester, to third and fifth with identical heights of 2.00m. Again Peter would take the higher placing thanks to less attempts at earlier heights on his scorecard.
Senior Kordell Hampton had some issues early on in the meet with the hammer and shot put, but he regained his composure in his signature event to set a new season's best in the discus to win at 55.24m. Adding some extra centimeters to his leading conference mark, he would best the likes of Long Beach State's Charlie Vernoy and Josh Carr, both of whom are ranked second and third in the conference just behind the Gaucho senior.
Redshirt freshman Brian Schulz absolutely demolished the men's 3000m with a time of 8:34.40, throwing in a 63 second third lap to drop the entire field by nearly 40 meters. Behind him, sophomore Nick Randazzo returned to the oval after sitting out since mid February with a back injury to finish third behind Irvine's Sam Ayala in 8:37.57. Almost as if he never left, Randazzo tucked in right with the leaders throughout the entirety of the seven and a half lap affair to be surpassed by Ayala in the final strides of the event.
In perhaps one of the more unconventional moments of the meet, senior Tyler Nelson took fifth in the 110m hurdles as well as fourth in the 400m hurdles, running the longer hurdle event for the first time in his four year stint as a Gaucho. Shooting out of the starting blocks as if it were a flat 200m, Nelson would start to feel the anguish from the first half of his race as the rounded the corner to the homestretch but would hang on for dear life to finish the race and secure points for the team scoring.
Redshirt sophomore Chloe Cox continued her breakout season in the women's steeplechase to take second behind Cal State Fullerton's Kelsey Carroll to drop an astounding 30 seconds from her personal best to run 10:56.32. As UC Irvine's Anastasia Karnaze led the majority of the race, Cox sat just behind Carroll and 2018 conference steeplechase runner-up Gabrielle De La Rosa from Fullerton from the gun, displaying near effortless water jump form the entire way as she blew by De La Rosa and Karnaze in the final lap. Cox is now ranked third in the Big West Conference in the steeplechase after being 12th prior to this race.
Redshirt sophomore Astrid Rosvall finally clashed with Cal State Fullerton's Samantha Huerta in the women's 1500m for the first time this season, the two sharing identical personal bests coming into this meet. Hanging just off Huerta's shoulder, the two ran nearly side by side throughout the entirety of the race but Huerta eventually pulled away from Rosvall in the final 150m, beating Rosvall 4:25.83 to 4:27.84. Junior Katie Camarena set a new season's best behind Rosvall in 4:29.73, displaying a formidable final lap that would take her from sixth to third, passing a trio of Fullerton runners in the process. Along with her performance in the 1500m, Camarena took second in the 3000m behind Fullerton's Trinity Ruelas 9:59.52 to 10:04.92.
Lastly, Junior Tori Palma took second in the shot put behind Irvine's Elizabeth Akindele 13.95m to 13.51m. Despite the loss, this would be Palma's third farthest throw of her Gaucho career, showing more consistency in the higher end of her throwing potential in this event. Palma also set a new personal best in the hammer throw to take third in 51.43m, just over half a meter off making onto the All-Time List for that event.
With the conclusion of the Big West Challenge, the majority of the team will rest up for next week while a select few take part in the two day UCSD Triton Invitational. Check back at UCSBGauchos.com for future coverage and follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for additional photos and news.