2006 Preview: Women Look to Defend '05 Big West Title

March 1, 2006

All-Cal Challenge Cup Entries - March 4th, 2006

The lady Gauchos enter 2006 after a historic '05 in which they won the Big West Championships, set numerous school records and re-wrote the UCSB top-10 lists. The Gauchos also enter the season without losing too many of its stars from last year, maintaining a squad that is poised to continue re-writing history and wreak havoc on the Big West. The Women will also look to hold on to their All-Cal Cup and Big West Challenge Cup, two other major meets of 2006.

Some key challenges they face in order to return to the top of the Big West include: A still to be determined roster is the Gauchos first obstacle as they see who will be around for '06. As the season progresses the coaches will have to make some decisions as to who will suit up this year and who will not.

Secondly, not returning from the conference squad includes graduated Gaucho, two time Conference Champion, Cosette Smith and some point scorers in the jumps and also an All-Conference finisher in the javelin. Some new faces will have to step up in order to make up the difference.

Lastly, although Idaho and Utah St. leave the conference, CS Northridge, Long Beach St. and Cal Poly SLO return strong squads looking to take away the crown from the Gauchos.

How can the Gauchos do it again?

Sprints
2005 Big West Female Track Athlete of the year, Kylie McCuen (Sr.) returns after a stellar 2005. She broke the 200m school record with a 23.88 clocking en rote to qualifying for Regionals in the 200m and 400m (54.52) and taking home Big West titles in both events. Joining her will be a healthy Elise Geiger (Sr.-56.92) who also finds herself near the top of the all-time UCSB lists and a young Kerry Gamble (So.) who fought injury and illness throughout '05. Gamble as a senior in high school set a personal best 55.05 as a California State Championships finalist. The top eleven at 200m in the Big West are slated to return as are nine women under 57 seconds in the 400m. The trio above along with veteran Leticia Pulido and some from the hurdle squad will also be striving to do some damage in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays. It appears the Big West will be highly competitive in the sprints, but the Gauchos come prepared.

Distances
Eighty, the number of points the Gaucho distance squad put up at the Big West Championships in four events. Two, the number of scorers the Gauchos lost from 2005. With the loss of two time Big West Champion and five time All-Conference member, Cosette Smith and '05 scorer, Rebecca Zamola to graduation, the Gauchos maintain a tough a distance crew.
At 800m the Gauchos will look to distance specialist Lindsay Christman (Sr.-2:11) to come up with some points for the team throughout the year along with half mile specialist Ashley Drady (Jr.-2:15). Look to hurdler Diana Joyner (Jr.-2:17) to provide support throughout the year.
In the metric mile, five of the top ten returners from '05 are Gauchos. Top returner and school record holder, Lauren Christman (Sr.-4:20) may return after battling some injuries throughout the Cross Country season. Sister Li. Christman is the #2 returner as she will also look to do some damage at 1500m with a 4:23 personal best. Megan Lewis (Jr.-4:30), Bethany Nickless (So.-4:34) and Hadas Moser (Jr.-4:34) are the other three who will provide needed points for UCSB throughout the year.
Moving up to the 5k distance include UCSB and Big West Record holder La. Christman (16:16) along with Li. Christman (16:44), and Lewis (16:49). Stephanie Rothstein (Sr.-17:04) who suffered a setback mid-season in 2005 will also look to go under 17 minutes and rise into one of the West Regions best along with Seanna Martin (Sr.-17:11). The Gauchos went 1-4 in the Big West, placed four at NCAA Regionals and put two in the NCAA Championship finals in this event. They also return seven of the Conferences' top ten returners.
In the 10k, Last year's Champion, Lewis (36:15) and All-Conference finisher Moser (37:22) return along with Rothstein who will move up to this event for 2006. Also look to Martin to improve upon her #6 all-time Gaucho mark of 36:38 at this event. The four accounted for twenty-five points in last year's Big West finals. And in the steeplechase, UCSB returns school record holder Nickless (10:43), also the Big Wests' top returner from '05.
The Gauchos will also add sub five minute miler, freshman Danielle Domenichelli (Oak Ridge) and Liza Hitchner (Half Moon Bay) who already showed great promise in Cross Country as well as another sub five minute miler in Erin Schuyler of Granite Bay High.

Hurdles
Continuing to improve and gain strength, the hurdlers after qualifying four to the Big West Championships now look to put some into the finals. A group of Juniors - Stellamarie Hall, Diana Joyner, Noel Phares and Lauri Schakett - all return in order to make a move in '06.
Hall has shown promise at the 110m Hurdle (15.46) and 400m Hurdle (63.10) distances. Joyner's specialty the 400m Hurdles (64.42) will also be complemented by a few 800m dashes. Look for Phares (64.33) and Shackett (64.02 to improve upon their 400m hurdle marks and shoot for finals at the Big West Championships.

Jumps
The Gauchos lost a few a key jump members but nonetheless maintain a strong squad. In the Long Jump and Triple Jump UCSB returns Ashley Coelho (Jr.) who held marks of 17-09 and 39-03 and Katie Kramer (Jr.) who made big improvements during the 2005 campaign with a best of 18-07.25 in the long jump. At the High Jump, the Gauchos add Jane Doolittle (Fr.) and Genevieve McGreevy (Fr.) to the team. Also, four of the eight scorers in this event do not return in 2006 leaving some room for the Gaucho newcomers in what is traditionally a very competitive Conference event.

Pole Vault
A great end to their season with big performances at the Big West Championships fuels this group. Jessica Horn (Jr.-11-05.75) and Heidi Nyberg (Jr.-11-11.75) return after taking a fifth and a second respectively at the Championships. Maintaining their position will also be an important factor for the Gauchos in winning as it was in 2005.

Throws
A now respected Conference power, the Gauchos did not lose a single thrower to graduation from a squad that scored 49 points in four events and won the Shot Put, Discus and Hammer Throw at the Big West Championships.
Amy Haapanen (Sr.) and Heather Quinn (Sr.) if they do not red-shirt return after winning three conference events between the two of them at Big West. Quinn took the Discus (163-02) and Shot Put (47-09) titles while Haapanen out distanced the field in the Hammer (196-01.75). Both also qualified for NCAA Regionals with Haapanen advancing to the National Championships. Haapanen returns as school record holder in three events and Conference Record Holder in the Hammer.
Jamie Schwarzbach (So.) continues to improve and a healthy Charlene Heaston (So.) could add some more firepower to the Gaucho throw squad. If the two Gauchos red-shirt, the top returning mark would be just over 45 feet in the Shot Put. Heaston in her Freshman year tossed one 45-06 while Schwarzbach has a best of 42-08. In the Discus the top returning mark would be 157 feet with Heaston's freshman year mark of 144 feet placing her as the #6 returner. The Hammer Throw's top mark would be just shy of 180 feet.

The Gauchos will be set out to defend their first title of '06 with the All-Cal Challenge Cup this Saturday at UC Irvine versus UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC San Diego.