Azusa, Calif. - The last big invitational for the UC Santa Barbara Track and Field team turned out to be a fruitful venture as plenty of personal bests and last minute conference qualifying marks were achieved at the Bryan Clay Invitational hosted by Azusa Pacific University. Just two weeks out from the Big West Multis and three from the Big West Conference Championships, both men's and women's teams seem to be heading in the right direction as the postseason draws near.
Multi's Hold Down Days One and Two; Bender and Pica Set New Personal Best Scores
A horde of multi event groups would take over Cougar Athletic Stadium for the first two days of competition with Senior's Hope Bender and Tyler Nelson along with sophomore Sam Pica representing the Gauchos. Hope would take third overall in the heptathlon in a new personal best score of 5940 points while Nelson and Pica would go 1-2 in their decathlon group with respective scores of 7254 and 7094.
Competing in the top heptathlon group in the meet, Bender would add 215 points on her previous heptathlon total, just missing out on alumni and 2016 Olympian Barbara Nwaba's school record of 5986 points. Along with setting new personal bests in the 200m (24.03), and the javelin (38.30m), she would set a huge mark in the long jump all the way out at 6.18m (+1.6 m/s), good enough for No. 2 on the UCSB All-Time List. Bender would also end up beating UC Davis' Erin Beattie for the intra conference battle during the meet as Beattie would end up accumulating just 5671 points for her heptathlon score card.
Nelson's victory in his decathlon group would come with a few new personal bests in the long jump (7.01m), 400m (48.64), 110m hurdles (14.51), and pole vault (4.40m). Though a few missteps in other events would unfortunately put him out of contention for an overall best points wise, the experienced senior looks poised heading into conference as he was able to prevail over the likes of UC Davis' Kyle Clancy, who scored 7171 points in decathlon group 3 to finish behind Nelson in the overall standings. Pica's new score of 7093 would mark the first time he's broken 7000 points, setting personal bests in five out ten events throughout the course of the decathlon including the shot put (11.42m), 400m (48.08), 110m hurdles (15.46), discus (33.64m), and 1500m (4:17.65).
1500m Squad Nets Over Six Personal Bests
With the Bryan Clay Invitational known to foster a competitive environment for its huge pool of 1500m heats, the distance crew would take full advantage of the endless barrage of 1500m races, some including volunteer pacesetters, to accumulate six total personal bests on the men's and women's sides, along with a few near personal bests to boot.
The most impactful performances would come from junior Katie Camarena and sophomore Alex Barr. Camarena would come into the night portion of the meet on tired legs with her 800m performance earlier that Friday in 2:11.26, a season's best by two seconds and the second fastest time of her Gaucho career. Despite this, she'd still hang onto the main pack in her 1500m heat to finish in a new best time of 4:25.71, a half second faster than last year's performance at this meet. Barr would make a huge jump in his 1500m heat to win in 3:50.54, nearly a four second personal best from his 3:54.22 from 2018. In addition to edging out fellow Big West competitor Anthony Benitez from Cal Poly in the race, Barr is now ranked second overall in the conference 1500m.
Junior Isaiah Lozano would throw down his second fastest 1500m time in over two years with a 3:53.89, a mere 0.17 seconds off his personal best. Freshman Jimmy Chahal and junior Ramon Flores would set personal bests behind Barr and Lozano in respective times of 3:56.39 and 3:58.83, Ramon taking his new 1500m clocking after setting a personal best earlier on in the meet in the 800m with a 1:54.04.
Behind Katie, redshirt sophomore Chloe Cox would set a five second personal best with a time of 4:38.24, getting a last minute Big West Conference qualifier after qualifying for the steeplechase earlier this year. Fellow sophomore Kelly Bishop would also set a personal best with a time of 4:37.40, mustering up a huge kick in the final 200m to shave almost a full second off her previous best. Lastly, redshirt sophomore Sienna Serrao would finish just 0.19 seconds off her personal best with a 4:39.36.
Junior Callan Cochran would finally return to the track to finish the 100m in a time of 10.84 (+ 0.4 m/s). Not racing since February due to a hamstring injury, he'd finally set a Big West Conference qualifier and finish the race with no further complications.
Sophomore George Harris would set a new personal best in the shot put with a throw of 15.91m, besting his mark from last year that he set at the Big West Conference Championships.
After a long and arduous up and down season, senior Chris Aichinger was able to put together a solid pole vault performance by hitting a season's best mark of 4.65m, a conference qualifying mark.
Sophomore Nick Randazzo would set a new personal best in the 5000m by over 15 seconds with a 14:49.68 clocking. He would end up leading the majority of the race en route to his new best time.
Senior Cassidy Peng mowed through the jumping gauntlet once again with marks in the long jump (5.71m), triple jump (12.10m), and pole vault (3.90m). Her triple jump would be just 0.02m off the personal best she set at the Challenge Cup while her pole vault would be an improvement on her previous best by 0.05m, meaning she's set personal bests in all three events this year for her final season in uniform. Behind her in the vault freshman Jazmine Haratani would clear a personal best effort of 3.60m, 0.09m higher than her previous best and 0.05m off a conference qualifying mark.
Freshman Kendall Martin would return to throwing past the 40m mark with a 40.73m effort in the javelin throw, the second farthest throw in her career as a Gaucho. This would be her fourth time past 40m this season.
Junior Tori Palma displayed her consistency once again in the shot put with another throw past 13m, hitting 13.69m on the day.
Lastly, freshman Emma Overell would set a new personal best in the 5000m clocking 17:47.18. Though she'd miss the conference qualifying mark by just two seconds, she'd surpass her previous best by 12 seconds over the course of the 12.5 lap race.
The Gauchos have one last meet at home at the Cal Poly Dual Meet before they head into the post season. Check back at UCSBGauchos.com for future coverage and follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for additional photos and news.