Edit (3/8/2019): It was previously incorrectly reported that alum Barbara Nwaba's highest finish at indoor nationals was ninth back in 2012. The proper placing was fourth place which has since been corrected.
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Senior Hope Bender's accolades have come to noticeable fruition in the past year with two NCAA Championship appearances both indoors and out. Individual Big West Titles have been claimed and defended, school records have fallen, and she's faced the best the NCAA has to offer in the pentathlon and heptathlon. And this weekend, she'll be doing so again at the NCAA Indoor National Championships where she will compete in the pentathlon this Friday hosted by the University of Alabama in the Birmingham Crossplex.
Live Stream and Start Times
ESPN3 will be streaming the championships live starting at 3:30pm PST for Day 1 and 2:00pm PST for Day 2. The women's pentathlon will begin at 10:00am starting with the 60m hurdles and ending with the 800m at 3:30, right as the live broadcast will begin.
Third Time's the Charm
In 2018, Bender's first ever taste of an NCAA Championship meet in College Station, Texas concluded with a 12th place finish with a score of 4010 points, matching her national ranking prior to the championship meet (she was also 12th for the outdoor national meet as mentioned earlier). She was able to earn Second-Team All-American accolades thanks to her performance at last year's championships, but she has a clear goal set on attaining First-Team honors. In order to do so, she will need to place eighth or higher, a mark which bodes well going into this year's meet as she is currently ranked fifth in the nation for the NCAA Division 1 rankings in the pentathlon.
Her indoor campaign thus far has been as expected for the determined multi-event athlete, setting personal bests nearly across the board and culminating to a 4220 point performance at the UW Invitational back in late January. Bender has also garnered overall personal bests, indoors or out, in both the long jump and high jump with respective marks of 5.90m and 1.70m, events that have been the bane of her score total in the past.
"Hope is better than anyone I've ever worked with when it comes to preparing for championship meets," remarked Interim Head Coach Gray Horn. "She knows that her greatest task this weekend is to execute our plan, and ignore all the hype that comes with NCAA Championship weekend."
With that hype of course comes expectations. For those who've studied up on their Gaucho track and field history, 2016 U. S. Olympian and recent UCSB ICA Hall of Fame Inductee Barbara Nwaba cemented her legacy back in 2012 with her stint at the pentathlon and heptathlon with a 4th place finish at Indoor Nationals, 2nd Outdoors, 5th at the 2012 Olympic Trials, and setting the heptathlon school record at 5986 points. Though UCSB does not officially keep school records for indoor performances, Nwaba does hold the highest pentathlon score as a Gaucho with her score of 4244 points which she set at the 2012 UW Invitational all those years ago. Bender was able to surpass her alumni predecessor outdoors once already by taking down Nwaba's 100m hurdles school record of 13.59 at the 2018 NCAA West Regional Meet with an astounding 13.33 clocking. Whether or not Bender exceeds Nwaba's other historic marks has yet to be seen, but for now the record books remain open for more entries as this weekend's championships draw near.