May 28, 2005
The NCAA West Regional Championships came to a rainy end on Saturday afternoon in Eugene, OR. Overcast morning skies held tight through most of the events until a steady rain, thunder and lightning postponed the meet for over ninety minutes with two events remaining. Nonetheless, the Gauchos unofficially qualified one more athlete to the Division I National Championships.
Tetlo Emmen (Jr.) for the second year in a row came in as an underdog in the 800m run. Ranked 8th in the West, Emmen automatically qualified into Saturday's finals in heat one of the prelims. A tough field with four men dipping under 1:48 in the 2005 and a slew of others in between 1:48 and 1:49 made for a great finals event. Although a little cold for these middle distance runners the field went out in a moderate pace coming through 400m in 53 and 54 seconds.
Emmen was sitting toward the back of a tightly bunched group. With 250m to go, Rankin of UCLA charged ahead of the field gapping them by a little over ten meters going into the final turn. With the pack in hot pursuit Emmen made his move going around the turn on the outside to move through the field. Into the final homestretch all eight were together with Emmen out in lane three.
Fighting hard, Emmen would pull up for sixth at the line, just nine tenths of a second from first in 1:49.10. Brown of Washington would end up the winner in 1:48.191 and Rankin second in 1:48.195. Although unable to defend his 2004 title, Emmen appears he will obtain an at-large berth into Nationals via his seasonal best time and of course finishing either sixth, seventh or eighth in today's final. This will be his second trip to Nationals after he qualified as a sophomore last year.
In the men's Hammer Throw, Eugene Bradley (Jr.), Big West Conference runner up went in ranked 11th in the West. "Big Gene" in the first round went out and tossed a personal best 201-foot throw. The mark good enough to qualify for finals was the fifth best mark through three of six rounds.
With sprinkles of rain beginning to fall and thunder in the background Eugene maintained his position unable to improve upon his mark. In the fifth round Midles of USC passed Bradley with a 204 foot throw bumping him out of the automatic qualifying positions. It was at this point in which Mother Nature did not comply with the West Regional Championships around 5:30pm forcing the officials to postpone it for more than ninety minutes.
No thrower would best his mark in the sixth and final round after the postponement, leaving Bradley in sixth. His mark, a personal best on less than perfect conditions will more than likely keep him out of the at-large qualifying positions with athletes from other regions turning in farther marks.
The Women's 200m final saw Kylie McCuen (Jr.) in her first finals appearance at the West Regional Championships. Ranked 8th coming into the competition she faced tough competition from the Pac-10 schools including Athens Gold Medalist Monique Henderson of UCLA. School Record holder in this event, McCuen took down Shemi of Portland St. to finish seventh in 24.61. Henderson was the winner. With that seventh place finish and her personal best standing at 23.88 it is unlikely that she will garner an at-large selection.
In the final event of the day, the Men's 4x400m relay contained an upset winner from the Big West Champions. The UCSB Gauchos maintaining their Championship squad would again start off with Max Bellissimo (Fr.). Going in as the last ranked team by approximately two seconds the Gauchos would again run another good relay on the rainy, slick Hayward Field track. In the first of two heats, the Gauchos would face three others being BYU, Cal and Fresno State.
Bellissimo opened up with a 48.8 400m split handing the baton to Ryan Donnelly (So.). Getting out quickly, Donnelly pulled into second going into turn two. Just getting passed back into third on the homestretch he would give up the stick after a 49.0 to Ben Armel (Sr.) who would take his final lap around the track for the Gauchos.
Three-time Big West 800m Champion, Armel would blaze around the wet oval in 47.7 keeping their third position. Emmen would take over for the anchor leg holding off Fresno State but unable to grab eventual winners BYU and Cal. His split of 47.9 gave them a 3:13.28, just a second off the winning time. They would wind up eighth after the fast was completed.
In other final day action, Amy Haapanen (Jr.) and Heather Quinn (Jr.) were unable to qualify for finals in the Women's Discus. They ended 12th and 19th respectively. In the Shot Put, Haapanen again would take 12th just out of finals contention and Quinn would finish in 18th position. Haapanen maintained her rank of 12th in both events that she began the meet with, while Quinn improved upon her rank of 20th going into the Shot.
In the Men's Pole Vault, Big West Conference Champion Sean Thomas-Bignami (Jr.) would only clear 16-01.25 in a screwy day that saw the winner only go 17-01 and a few All-American candidates no height in windy and cold conditions.
Also in the field, Rebecca Richey (Jr.), All-Conference in the Javelin Throw two weeks ago ended a disappointing 24th with a mark of 131-05. Her mark of 150 at the Big West Championships which propelled her into the Regional Championships helped start off a magical day for the women en route to their first Conference title.
In the 3,000m steeplechase, the women got off just before the rains came down. Although she was competing in the first of two heats, with the top ranked women in the second, it is still possible for an athlete to qualify out of the first heat based on time.
School Record holder Bethany Nickless (Fr.) got off to a great start holding pace through five laps for a personal best. Beginning to waiver she would fall back to sixth in her heat and 18th overall in a time of 10:47.69.
The men however did not avoid the rain. About ready to start, the athletes had to stay warm for an extra ninety minutes. Finally getting off at 7:05pm, the first heat of two heats included Gaucho junior Scott Brandos. Like Nickless, he was in the slower ranked heat. Having an off day, Brandos who was named All-Conference at this distance two weeks ago ended up 23rd overall.
The Gauchos next travel to Sacramento, CA for the NCAA Division I National Championships. Automatically, UCSB has qualified two athletes out of the 5,000m in Lauren Christman (Jr.) and Cosette Smith (Sr.). Unofficially, they have qualified Tetlo Emmen (Jr.) in the 800m and Amy Haapanen (Jr.) out of the Hammer Throw with at-large berths. On the bubble remains Javelin thrower Gabe Mann (Jr.). Official declared athletes for the National Championships will be made available early this week.