NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Derek Masterson of UC Santa Barbara won the decathlon and two of his teammates finished among the top-six at the Big West Conference Multi-Event competition and the first leg of the 2013 Big West Track and Field Championships at Cal State Northridge on Saturday.
Samantha Balentine of Hawai'i took home the heptathlon title while UCSB freshman Tori Usgaard finished fourth.
Both Masterson and Balentine won by less than 100 points in two tight battles that went down to the final event.
Masterson scored 7,376 points to capture his second straight decathlon title, nipping the 7,355 he amassed last year at UC Irvine. He narrowly edged Long Beach State senior Garrett Demirjian, who finished second with 7,296 points. Mikael Powers of UCSB collected 7,100 points for third while Cal Poly teammates Devin Bennett and Dominic Byrne finished fourth (6,989) and fifth (6,833) in the final standings, respectively.
Masterson accumulated just enough points as he tied for first in the pole vault with a clearance of 15-01, second in the discus with a toss of 140-00 and third in the javelin with a heave of 177-07. The senior is the first Big West athlete to win two straight decathlons since Idaho's Jereme Richardson in 2004 and 2005.
Demirjian, who improved one spot from third after day one of the multi's, nearly stripped away Masterson's title with consistent solid showings. He started the day out with back-to-back victories in the 110 hurdles (14.73) and discus (141-10). The senior made a final push for the title as he completed the 1,500 meters in third place with a time of 4:29.86.
The Gauchos rode Masterson, Powers and junior Billy Britt, who came in sixth (6,523 points), to a team total of 19 points heading into the bulk of next week's meet at the Matador Track and Field Complex. Cal Poly collected nine team points and Long Beach State tallied eight.
In the heptathlon, Hawai'i senior Balentine held off UC Riverside senior Jazmine Lewis and Long Beach State junior Taylor Jackson to get the Rainbow Wahine off to a great start in their first Big West Track and Field Championship.
Balentine earned 5,060 points after finishing ninth in the long jump (17-00.75), sixth in the javelin (101-00) and fifth in the 800 meters (2:27.91). She outran both Jackson and Lewis in the 800 to pick up the required points to hold off her closest pursuers.
Lewis notched 4,974 points for the runner-up finish and Jackson was third with 4,963. UC Santa Barbara freshman Tori Usgaard had an excellent fourth place showing (4,828) in her first conference heptathlon. Cal State Northridge junior Stephanie Hicks was fifth with 4,773 points.
UH accumulated a total of 15 team points as Balentine's 10 were coupled with the five additional points that junior Kaleigh Morrison and senior Amanda Alvarez earned by virtue of their sixth and seventh place finishes.
Competition continues on Friday, May 10 at Cal State Northridge with the women's hammer throw at 9:00 a.m. Live results may be accessed on the Big West championship page and flashwest.com.