Santa Barbara, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara Track and Field would welcome back two familiar faces to their list of individual champions this past weekend at the Big West Conference Multi Championships as Hope Bender would defend her conference heptathlon title from 2018, while Tyler Nelson would return to the top of the podium as conference champion in the decathlon after winning the title once before all the way back in 2016. With UCSB hosting the conference track and field championships for the first time since 1983, the two seniors would fittingly commemorate the occasion at the Pauley Track and Field Facility by sweeping the multis, Nelson setting a new personal best score in the decathlon with 7420 points and Bender taking down the Big West Conference record in the heptathlon by scoring 5814 points, besting Gaucho alumni and 2016 US Olympian Barbara Nwaba's record of 5709 set back in 2012.
"Today was a dream come true," said Interim Head Track and Field Coach Gray Horn. "When I accepted my job at UC Santa Barbara [last year], I was well aware of the rich tradition that we had in the multi-events dating back to Sam Adams, along with every great coach that had followed. This crew has a bright future, and I'm thankful to be part of it."
Back to Back
Hope would start off day two with one of her most consistent series' in the long jump, hitting over six meters every single time she took off from the board. Her attempts would round out to 6.00m (19' 8.25"), 6.06m (19' 10.75"), and 6.02m (19' 9"), all into a small headwind. For the javelin, Hope would settle for a 35.55m throw for a safe set of guaranteed points to keep her lead. There were talks of a school record in sight heading into this event, but unfortunately two fouls after her first throw would be a telltale sign that the record was not meant to be on the day. Despite this, Hope would be satisfied to secure the heptathlon win by cruising through the 800m with a solid 2:18.26 clocking, knowing that she had already secured the meet record before the final event. She would best her nearest competitor in second by almost 300 points, and third place by almost 600.
Return to the Top
Nelson went into day two knowing full well he'd have defending 2018 conference champion Kyle Clancy of UC Davis right on his heels as he barely held him off after day one, their scores working out to 3943 and 3819. The Gaucho senior would start off with a solid 14.64 (-0.4 m/s) clocking in the 110m hurdles, keeping his lead, but Clancy would edge him out with a 14.50 to keep their scorecards close together. Nelson would solidify some breathing room thanks to winning the discus with a throw of 41.56m (136' 4"), but Clancy would answer right back in the pole vault, hitting 4.70m (15' 5") to Tyler's 4.30m (14' 1.75"). The UC Davis Aggie would then put pressure on Nelson in the javelin with a throw of 52.54m (172' 4"), but a 48.86m (160' 3") mark from Nelson would keep the points close enough for the experienced Gaucho to know a conference title was nearly assured, so long as he put up a solid run in the 1500m to close out the meet. As the laps ticked away during the three and three quarter lap affair, Tyler would secure another conference title with a clocking of 4:50.99, collapsing to the track with a half grimace, half smile etched on his face. A valiant dual would leave an exhausted Clancy to fall back to third in the final event as Long Beach State's John Broadhead would sneak by in points for second.
"It was awesome to win a conference title on the new track as that was one of my big goals for the season," Nelson remarked. "I had a good group of guys to compete against and they helped me tremendously with nerves and kept the competition fun. I also finally had a really consistent meet, which is I was happy about. I didn't do anything special in any particular event, but I was able to get the job done."
Sophomore Samuel Pica had a successful day in his own right with a solid fifth place finish overall in the decathlon, improving two spots from his seventh place finish from the 2018 championships. The young underclassmen would unfortunately fall to experience on day two as the top four, all seniors, would slowly pull away in points as the meet continued. Pica would still close out the meet with 6916 points, his second best score in the decathlon to date.
Senior Aaron Cheek would finish tenth overall in 6302 points, his second best scoring in the event. Though he would not improve on his eighth place finish from last year, he would have one of his best series in the javelin throw with three personal best throws back to back, throwing 54.98m (180' 4"), 55.52m (182' 2"), and 58.20m (190' 11"), moving him all the way up to fourth in the rankings for the Big West Conference for that event.
Senior Puck DeRoos would finish out her final heptathlon as a Gaucho in tenth overall with a score of 4223 points, matching her placing from the 2018 championships.
Junior Zachary Wilson would finish ninth overall in the decathlon with a personal best score of 6331 points, just 60 points off a top eight finish at his first Big West Conference meet.
Lastly, true freshman Peter Michiels would break 6000 points for the first time in the decathlon by finishing 13th with a score of 6012 points.
The Gauchos will be back next week for the main program of the Big West Conference Championships that will be hosted once again on their home track on May 10th and 11th. Check back at UCSBGauchos.com for future coverage and follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for additional photos and news.