May 14, 2005
Irvine, CA - Another day of great moments for the Gauchos put them in the top three for the first time since 1996. Individual performances in all events put them over the top gaining redemption over last year's disappointing 4th place finish. An exciting finish to the meet catapulted them ahead of Idaho and Utah St. to secure the third position in the team standings.
Cal St. Northridge won the men's title with 142.50 points, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo finished 2nd with 135 points, UCSB was third grabbing 112.50 points, Idaho finished with 103 points and Utah St. had 100 points.
Starting off the meet with the Hammer Throw at 10am, it took UC Irvine's Beerer to throw his best in order to hold off UCSB's Eugene Bradley (Jr.). Entering 3rd in 2005 with a personal best 199-00 feet, Bradley threw 200-01 inch on his first throw of the finals. Moving him into first place, his mark kept him there until the last throw of the competition. To beat him, Beerer on his home turf threw his personal best on his final throw taking the Championship. Like any great competitor Bradley knew that he had competed his best and had pushed Beerer. His eight points started the day off right for the Gauchos.
Next up at 2pm were the High Jumpers. In early March, both Kent Centers (So.) and Jacob Maus (Fr.) cleared their seasonal bests of 6-08.75 at UC Irvine. They entered the Championships both tied for eighth. Clearing the early heights easily, at 6-08.75 feet, Centers who has struggled lately due to a foot injury had three close misses at the height. He would finish tied for eighth. Maus missed his first two and then got up on third attempt clearing his personal best easily. Maus would miss a personal best attempt of 6-10.75 finishing in 6th place.
At 3:00pm the track events began with the 4x100m relay. Ranked eighth going in, the Gaucho team of Nino Kolyouthapong (So.), Max Bellissimo (3rd), Isaac Herrera (Sr.) and Ryan Donnelly (Jr.) moved up one spot to finish 7th in a seasonal best 42.04.
Following the relay, the Men's 1500m toed the line. Without prelims due to a field size of only fourteen, the race was due to be fast as the athletes entered fresh. School Record holder Scott McConville (Jr.) and Mike Chavez (So.) were ranked 3rd and 6th respectively. At the gun 2004 1500m Champion, Moorcroft of Cal Poly SLO took the race out at a blistering pace for the second year in a row.
Coming through in 58 for 400m and 1:58 for 800m, he had strung out the field rather quickly. A small chase pack formed with McConville inside it. With a lap to go it was apparent that Moorcroft would take it again and the race was now for 2nd. McConville broke away from some, but a strong kick by two others dropped him to fourth finishing in 3:47.72, his highest finish at a Big West Championship. Chavez was sixth in 3:50.89. Through eleven scored events, Cal Poly was in first with 83, UCSB hung onto 2nd with 68 while CS Northridge was beginning to make its move with the sprinting events coming into play. They had 67.50 points.
Going into the 400m finals, the Gauchos were in third already fighting hard to stay there. After Friday's 400m prelims, Bellissimo got in to the finals as the 6th seed with a 48.78. Charging around the track, Bellissimo as consistent as it gets, ran another 48.78 pulling up for 3rd, an All-Conference finish. Lighting the fire for the Gauchos it now appeared that it would be tough to keep them out of the top three.
The 800m final would be an important event in grabbing some big team points. Ben Armel (Sr.) and Emmen (Jr.) have had a history of finishing 1-2 in Championship races as they did so last year at Big West and then again at the NCAA Regional Championships. Going in as four-second favorites, it was theirs for the taking. Emmen got out pacing Armel through the first lap in 52 seconds.
Armel than took over slowing a bit but maintaining a hold on first and second. Armel would go onto finish 1st in 1:51.10 for his 3rd Big West Championship crown. Emmen was second with a 1:51.60. Justin Coburn, whom just barely made it into the finals by a hundredth of a second finished eighth. After sixteen events, CS Northridge was well ahead of the others with 118 points. Cal Poly was second with 104 points and UCSB had 96.50. The 400m Hurdles, 200m and Discus would prove to be big for Idaho as they jumped from sixth place to third moving past UCSB going into the last two events of the Championships.
In the 5,000m the Gauchos did not have a single athlete ranked in the top eight scoring positions. Micah Tyhurst was the top Gaucho at 9th with a 14:17.72, but as anybody who has seen the Big West Championship 5K's understands that it is anybody's race with most athletes doubling or even tripling back. Another slow pace through the first half of the race that has characterized recent Big West 5K finals took the field through a mile at approximately 4:55.
Bruce of Cal Poly, the Conference leader and record holder at this event made a move at seven laps to break the field. Accomplishing his goal, the field had strung out with successive 66's. Tyhurst covered every move and moved into 5th place with three laps to go. Bruce, Ball of Utah St., Coughlin of Cal Poly, and Nielson of Utah were ahead of him. With the look of determination and pain settling in after racing a 10K the night before in which he placed 5th in, Tyhurst closed the gap on Nielson and Coughlin. Entering the final 400m, he saved a big kick to thrust himself into third past both Nielson and Coughlin. His third place finish in a time of 14:37.25 was his first All-Conference finish. Even greater though he had beat many in what was one of the deepest 5,000m finals in recent history. The eight ranked ahead of him before the race all had NCAA Regional qualifiers.
It also put the Gauchos back in third place with 102.50 points. Utah St. with two finishers in the top eight also moved past Idaho with 98 points. Idaho did not score any points in the 5,000m and remained at 97. It would come down to the 4x400m relay for the second year in a row. Last year the baton was accidentally knocked out of Ben Armel's hand by a UC Irvine relay squad leaving them in fourth place as a team.
This year a strong Idaho team who had run 3:12.60 and ranked second was entered, while the Gauchos had previously only run 3:19.17 and seeded seventh. UC Irvine was the Conference leader with a 3:11.82. But, for the first time all season, Armel and Emmen would join the squad as well as Donnelly who as a Freshman split a 48 second lap to help the team finish 2nd. With an Idaho win or second place the Gauchos would have to place no lower than 3rd or 6th.
Bellissimo, coming off his All-Conference finish led off the Gauchos running a great leg in 48 mid. The baton would then get passed to Donnelly who found himself in third going around the first turn. A strong first 200m, Donnelly went right to the lead ahead of UC Irvine and Idaho. Coming down the homestretch Donnelly was neck in neck with UCI and Idaho. Armel would take the third leg and quickly put himself in front. Holding the lead through the last turn he would pass on the baton to Emmen, splitting a high 47. Emmen would blaze the 400m never relinquishing the lead to bring home the relay title and 3rd place for the team.
With the women winning the team title and the men's exciting finish, the Gaucho fans in attendance poured onto the infield in one of the greatest Big West Championships in Gaucho History. A Men's and Women's "Ole" cheer capped off a near perfect weekend when everything was on the line. The Gauchos next move onto the NCAA Regional Championships in Eugene, OR in two weeks. The men have qualified eleven athletes vying for a National Championship birth.