Fullerton, Calif. - Three UCSB athletes broke into the Big West scoring column to begin a two weekend set of Championship action for the Gauchos. Under overcast skies at Cal State Fullerton, sixteen decathletes and seventeen heptathletes squared off to decide who would walk away with the 2017 combined events titles.
UCSB SR Tori Usgaard and JR Tyler Nelson each earned conference runner-up honors after scoring 5307 and 6944 respectively. JR Jeff Lam placed sixth in the decathlon with a new lifetime best score of 6630.
"This was another strong showing from our multi-event group." said UCSB Associate Head Coach Cody Fleming.
"Tori was steady throughout and put up another great score. We've seen a couple of big long jump efforts from her this season and I was happy for her that she was finally able to get the school record with a legal wind."
Usgaard actually tied the school record with a leap of 19'5.5, aided with a wind-legal 1.7 tailwind. She now join class of '13 Veronica Gines atop the record board.
Usgaard's marks were 14.04, 5'4.5, 34'5.75, 25.65, 19'5.5, 115'11, 2:25.20.
"Tyler's performance was about as gutsy as you'll see. He battled injuries all season, forcing him to take off the last four weeks completely. Nothing. Not the ideal way to prepare for a decathlon. But a few days before the competition he went through a light warm-up, felt ok and I left the decision to compete up to him."
Nelson, a 10.93 100m runner, got off to a conservative start clipping 11.30 in one of his better events. He then jumped 21'7 in the long jump, well off his 22'11 personal best before catching some momentum in the shot put. On his second attempt Nelson blasted a huge lifetime best out to 49'9. He closed the day with a 49.86 in the 400m and held the lead after day one.
"Day two was difficult. When Tyler woke-up it looked like he was hit by a semi-truck. He was limping in between attempts and by the time we got to the javelin he collapsed after each throw, his back was bothering him that badly. He left everything he had out on the track and it was inspiring for everyone who was watching."
Nelson held on to finish in second overall to score the Gauchos a valuable eight team points.
Gaucho Transfer Jeff Lam made a strong first appearance at the conference level with his sixth place performance. Lam opened the meet hot with marks of 11.02 in the 100m and 23'2.5 in the long jump. He continued his hotstreak in the jumps with leaps of 6'7.5 in the high jump and 14'6 in the pole vault to add to his score.
"Jeff is a talented athlete and I was impressed with the energy and focus he brought into the competition. He was so amped up in the high jump that before he cleared 6'7.5 he said 'watch this' with a smirk on his face, then nailed the attempt on his first try. Jeff is a man of few words so that was a rallying moment for the rest of the group."
Also in the competition for the Gauchos was FR Aine McNulty who finished the heptathlon in eleventh place with a score of 4519, sixty-two points out of eighth place. SO Hope Bender placed fourteenth with a score of 4312, after no-heighting in the high jump.
A select group of Gauchos also competed at Occidental College as a final tune-up before next week's Big West Championships. Sharpness was apparent as a number of All-Time list performances and personal bests were achieved in Eagle Rock, CA.
JR Jenna Hinkle and SR Kaitlin Large both won their heats of the 800m in fast, well executed races. Hinkle would come within .10 of her personal best, running 2:07.86 to be the fastest collegiate of the meet. Large would have a major career breakthrough, breaking the 2:10 barrier for the first time, 2:09.69 for #6 UCSB All-Time.
JR Kiely Gode would improve by a whopping 6 meters in the Hammer throw, also recording a breakthrough 54.02 meter (177'3") heave. She moves to #6 UCSB All-Time in the event, her debut on the list.
SR Bryan Guijarro notched a season best in the 1500m, running 3:55.16.
The Gauchos will return to Cal State Fullerton next week for the remainder of the Big West Championships.