Davis, Calif- The UCSB Men placed fourth overall and the women finished fifth at the 2014 Big West Track and Field Championships. On the men's side the Gauchos scored 91 points and captured six Big West medals. The UCSB women scored 73 points and took home seven Big West medals. Long Beach State and UC Davis repeated as the men's and women's Big West Champions.
1) Long Beach St. 218.50
2) Cal Poly 144.50
3) UC Davis 133
4) UC Santa Barbara 91
5) UC Riverside 72
6) Cal St. Northridge 63.50
7) UC Irvine 46
8) Cal St. Fullerton 43.50
1) UC Davis 194
2) Cal St. Northridge 183.33
3) UC Irvine 83
4) Long Beach St. 73.50
5) UC Santa Barbara 73
6) Cal Poly 69.33
7) UC Riverside 49
7) Cal St. Fullerton 49
9) Hawaii 42.83
Both UCSB teams sat in third after the first day but ran out of firepower as the second day finals started going off. Several Gauchos solidified NCAA qualifying marks and scores of performances we're added to the UCSB all-time list.
The UCSB javelin throwers were the first to see action on Saturday. A trio of freshman speared their way into the final, led by Darion Williams. Williams was fifth in the decathlon one week ago. He wasn't done. In the fourth round he hit a fierce block and let his blue and gold tailwind javelin sail 195'5, a mark good for third overall. Freshman Zach Tombol also caught his best throw of 187'7 in the fourth round, taking fifth in the event. In his first season in the sport, Matthew Kuskey, a former high school linebacker and golfer took sixth with a mark of 183'1.
Coach Cody Fleming was impressed with his jav core. "I thought the javelin group brought a great energy to the meet. They did a good job preparing and they competed well. Each time they went down the runway they we're getting after it. I think Mel's school record yesterday fired the guys up."
It didn't take long before the Gauchos were toeing the line on the track. Tori Tsolis competed in Saturday's 1500m final and went wire to wire with one of the best 1500m runner in the west region, UC Davis' Rachel Lambdin. Tsolis took off and ran in the lead pack from the sound of the gun. With 200m to go she made a move on Lambdin, last years Big West Champion in the 1500m and charged stride for stride down the home straight. Tsolis ran the race of her career and finished in second with a new lifetime best of 4:24.81. It is the fastest time for a Gaucho in the event since 2005 and moves Tsolis to fifth all-time in UCSB history.
That set the stage for perhaps the best race of the day: the men's 1500m. Shyan Vaziri sat behind teammate Brad Littooy for two laps before dropping the hammer and taking the race into his own hands. In close tow from UC Davis was Nathan Strum, a 3:43 man and one of the top 1500m men in the west. Vaziri kicked hard with a lap to go but it wasn't enough as Strum won at the lean 3:46.32 to Vaziri's 3:46.62. An appreciative crowd gave both men a round of applause for their gutsy effort. Both men are juniors, potentially setting up some memorable races in the coming months.
In fourth for the Gauchos was junior Tommy Poston in a new personal best time of 3:50.02. Poston lit up the final 250m and flung off the final curve wide open, passing bodies until he broke the tape.
In the men's 110 hurdle final, senior Sean Johnson took fifth in a time of 14.42. Johnson will go down as one of the most decorated hurdlers in UCSB history after scoring in his fourth straight Big West Championship- a remarkable feat. He ends his conference career with 18 total points via four Big West hurdle finals.
In the women's 400m, Jessica Johnson found the podium for the first time in her UCSB career. After a conservative first 200m, Johnson put in work on the final stretch and with 10m to go was still out of medal position. She drove her arms and knees with everything she had, making up enough ground to secure the bronze. Johnson came in at 54.29. She has a strong national mark and will be an athlete to keep an eye on at the NCAA First Round.
Sprints Coach Travis Anderson was happy to see Johnson put it all together at the conference meet. "We had several athletes who were waiting for a break through moment. Jessica was the most notable out of that group. I've been saying for a long time how talented she is and finally she showed what she is capable of. She did an awesome job competing and she's not done yet."
In the men's 400m running out of lane 1, Winton Nguyen took seventh with a time of 48.42.
In the men's 800m, Greg Dotson finished in seventh with a time of 1:52.38.
In the women's 400m hurdles, freshman Hallie Brauner made a statement that she will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. Brauner, a former basketball player, took fifth in a time of 61.54. That time moves Brauner into fourth all-time at UCSB. Brauner is another one of the athletes Coach Anderson was looking to have a break through moment.
"For Hallie to take fifth on this kind of stage shows what kind of competitor she is. She PR'd by more than half a second in the Big West final." Said Anderson.
In the women's 5000m Maxine Goyette and Bailey Miller raced like Gauchos and didn't break as the pack seperated at the mid-way point. Goyette crossed the finish line in sixth in 17:44.54. Miller came in seventh at 17:59.34. It was a gutsy performance in a field of 21 of the best distance runners in the conference, many running in their second or third event giving everything they have to end the season.
In the men's 5000m Bryan Guijarro took third. Guijarro stuck with a national class duo of Cal Poly harriers until the end. This is Guijarro's second Big West bronze to go along with his 10,000m medal from one year ago. Guijarro ran 14:49.35. He has a strong 10,000m mark from earlier this season which he will look to use to qualify for the NCAA First Round.
Another surprise for the Gauchos in the 5k was Anthony Monroy taking sixth. Monroy wouldn't relinquish his position and he showed strength beyond his years (freshman eligibility) to bring it home in 14:58.40. As with the women's race, the men's 5000m was full of competitors taking the line for the second or even third time in the meet. There were 29 total men in the field. The paces both started out slow, favoring the closing kicks of stronger veterans.
An electric pair of field events closed out the meet for the Gauchos.
In the men's triple jump Oscar Pearson added 48cm to his old best and finished in sixth overall. Pearson's mark moves to 8th all-time at UCSB and is the best jump from a Gaucho since 2002. Pearson opened with jumps of 14.03m and 14.02m, making the final tied for the last qualifying spot. He stayed in 9th, outside of scoring until his last attempt.
Pearson walked back to the end of the runway, pausing briefly to check his starting mark before letting out a monstrous exhale as he drove down the runway. He hit the board perfectly and bounded out to 47'7- a foot and a half PR.
In the women's high jump Jessica Emde took third with a new lifetime best leap of 5'9.25.
"Jessica didn't miss a jump all week- at her last practice at UCSB or during her pre-meet at Davis. She was completely focused on jumping a new personal best. She had a great year of training and today it showed" Said Fleming.
Emde actually tied for the lead but ended up in third due to misses. Her leap moves her to fifth all-time in UCSB history.
Reflecting back on the entire weekend Head Coach Pete Dolan was proud of his team and the athletes who shook up the scoring. His trio of women's distance runners all found the Big West podium and are all sophomores.
"Those were all great performances. I really enjoyed watching those athletes realize their dreams as great conference performers." Said Dolan.
Associate Head Coach Cody Fleming echoed the sentiment, "Our women came out and competed. They had the best meet of the year at the Big West Championships. We have a sophomore class that is shaping up to be pretty special."
Next the Gauchos will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas May 29-31 for the NCAA Preliminary Round or "First Round" competition. The top-48 qualifiers in the West region in each event will qualify based on their 2014 outdoor season performances.