Santa Barbara, Calif. - Junior Hope Bender and Senior Jenna Hinkle were recognized today with 2018 Athlete of the Year honors for the Big West Conference, Bender taking Women's Field Athlete of the Year and Hinkle taking Women's Track Athlete of the Year.
Hope Bender is the third woman to receive Field Athlete of the Year from UCSB, the first being NCAA All-American Amy Haapanen (2007) and the second being 2016 US Olympian and recent UCSB Hall of Fame Inductee Barbara Nwaba (2012). Bender was also given recognition as the Big West Women's Athlete of the Meet at the Big West Conference Championships for collecting over 26 individual points as well as an additional 6 points for contributing to the 4x400m relay squad at the conference meet. Her score of 5,561 points in the heptathlon was the fifth-highest winning total in conference history, and she is only the second Gaucho to win the heptathlon at the conference meet, the first being Barbara Nwaba. Along with this, she took third in the 100m hurdles and won the 400m hurdles, setting a school record of 58.02 in the process. Bender was also distinguished with Big West Track Athlete of the Week back in early April after winning both the 100m and 400m hurdles at the Big West Challenge.
Jenna Hinkle is the fourth woman from UCSB to receive Track Athlete of the Year following the likes of former 200m school record holder Kyle McCuen (2005), NCAA All-American Stephanie Rothstein (2006, 2007), and former 1500m school record holder Tori Tsolis (2016). Hinkle became the first woman in Big West history to achieve the 1500m/5000m double at the conference meet, during which she also took second in the 800m in what was perhaps one of the greatest distance triples the conference has ever seen on the women's side. She also won the 1500m and took second in the 800m at the conference meet back in 2017, making her the first ever Gaucho to win the 1500m two years in a row. Like Bender, Hinkle also took Big West Track Athlete of the Week honors back in late March for her conference leading marks at the time in the 800m (2:08.01) and 1500m (4:19.11) at the Aztec Invitational.