SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara women's indoor track and field team has gotten off to a great start and it looks like they aren't slowing down any time soon. The Gauchos are currently ranked 30th in the NCAA Division I, the only Big West team in the top-50. The only other Big West team in the rankings is Long Beach State which is ranked 136th.
Senior Barbara Nwaba returns to UCSB after competing unattached last season as well as representing Team USA at the Thorpe Cup where she finished 8th in the heptathlon. At last weekend's University of Washington Invitational, Nwaba placed first collegiately, second overall, in the pentathlon with a score of 4,244. This score met the 'A' standard for the NCAA Indoor Championships where she will be competing March 9-10 in Nampa, Idaho.
Nwaba couldn't have been happier about her pentathlon score. "I'm happy about the score I put up last week! My goal was to put up an auto qualifying mark for the pentathlon and compete hard, so I'm glad I was able to do both. On top of hitting her goals, she was also pleasantly surprised about her high jump results. "I had a great time at the high jump. To jump that high this early in the season was shocking but its a good indicator of how much stronger and better I am getting at the event," comments Nwaba.
Nwaba is currently ranked number two in the NCAA Divison I behind Canadian, Brianne Theisen of University of Oregon who set a new Candian pentathlon record with her total score of 4,555. Nwaba is also ranked number three in the NCAA this year for her high jump mark of 6-0.5 which she cleared at the UW Invite.
Redshirt Junior Irene Kujore has also contributed significantly to the Gauchos' top-30 ranking with her weight throw of 64-9.25 at the UW Invite. The mark ranks Kujore 19th in the NCAA.
Senior Maureen Ajoku, in her last indoor season of eligibility, has also made an impact for UCSB this season. Ajoku scored 3,688 at the UW Invite, placing fifth overall and narrowly missing the top-33 NCAA pentathlete list by 81 points.
The UCSB track and field coaching staff was excited to find out about their top-30 ranking on Wednesday.
"This women's team was looking very good in practice and I think the coaching staff didn't realize how much they wanted to compete and they proved it in their first two meets," said head coach Pete Dolan.
Despite UCSB's relatively young history competing during the indoor season, the veteran athletes were able to figure out the nuances between indoor and outdoor track and that has significantly contributed to their success so far this year.
"We're all impressed," Dolan said. "It's only our fourth year of indoor track and the returners have finally figured out the difference between indoor and outdoor track."
The women's indoor team will next compete at the Boise State Invitational on Feb. 10-11.