2006 Preview: Gauchos Look to Continue Rise in Big West
March 1, 2006
The Gaucho Men have been steadily improving over the last few years. After finishing no higher than 5th since a third place Conference finish in 1996, the Gauchos carried a disappointing 2004 fourth place finish at the Big West Championships with them through the '05 campaign. At the 2005 Championships they redeemed themselves with their highest point total in school history (112.50) and a third place finish in 2005. Only losing a few athletes to graduation, the Gauchos return a tough squad that is hungry for more.
Parting ways due to graduation include three time Big West Champion Ben Armel, as well as distance specialist Jeff Gardina. In the throws, shot putter, Ryan Lockner will also be missing after a fifth place finish at the Championships in his final competition. Also, having an impact on this year's squad will be Eugene Bradley (Sr.) who is locked in as a red-shirt. He finished second in the Hammer Throw and fifth in the Shot Put at the '05 Big West Championships.
However, as stated above, a hungry group of Men will welcome the Big West as they continue their march to the top of the Big West. Looking to impede their progress will again be Cal St. Northridge and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, last year's Champions and runner-up. Also, squads to look for will be last year's 5th and 6th place teams, Long Beach St. who just edged UC Irvine last year for 5th place by a half point (87.5-87). Both squads have enough depth to do some damage at the Conference level. Idaho and Utah St. are no longer in the Big West as the now all-California conference awaits UC Davis to join in 2007.
With All-Conference finisher at 400m Max Bellissimo (So.) leading the way, a young group of sprinters will suit up. Bellissimo has the 10th fastest returning 400m mark in the Big West, but as some witnessed last year he is a championship performer with the ability to come up big. Justin Morgan (Jr.) and Albert Rojas (So.) are also looking to improve upon their performances and get into the Big West Championships.
Joe Krezanoski joins the Gauchos from Oak Ridge High adding some depth to the 200m and 400m events. Krezanoski holds personal bests of 22.09 and 49.99. Also, a new group of hurdlers with some potential fast 400m speed will also help the Gaucho sprints. Kris Shirley, former high school teammate of Bellissimo at Canyon Country has run a 49.06 at 400m and Elmer Guzman, a Mission Viejo graduate will also look to help the Gauchos at this distance.
Another strong squad returns in '06. At 800m, Tetlo Emmen (Sr.) may red-shirt the 2006 season. A '04 Regional Champion and '05 All-American returns his speed can also be felt on the 4x400m squad after anchoring the Big West Championship title team. Joining the crew will be Rob Handley (So.-1:55) along with newcomers Bryce Adams (1:53.2) of City College of San Francisco and Bryant Loung (1:54.3) of Saint Joseph's in Santa Maria. Also, look for metric mile specialists Mike Chavez (1:53.7), Justin Coburn (1:52.9) and Scott McConville (1:52.5) to jump in throughout the year for certain meets. The Gauchos have scored at least two in this event dating back to 2000, including the previous two champions.
In the 1500m, school record holder Scott McConville (Sr.-3:46.7) looks to grab his first All-Conference finish as well as continue to lower his own record with juniors Chris Ashley (3:53) and Mike Chavez (3:47.6) looking to do the same. Justin Coburn (Sr.) is also moving up to a longer distance and could become another force for the Gauchos at this distance. With the top two 1500m athletes from '05 in the Big West graduated as well as two Anteaters who are currently slated to redshirt, opportunity is knocking on the door for UCSB.
At 5000m Ashley (14:38) is coming off of a Big West Cross Country title and will be one of the favorites at 5,000m entering the '06 campaign. Micah Tyhurst (Jr.-14:17), will also look to do some damage feeding off of last years great 5,000m final which found him on the Big West podium with a third place finish. Also, look to J.D. Krawczyk a transfer from Orange Coast College who may also surprise some after racing an early season 8:25 in the 3,000m at the Gaucho home opener.
At 10,000m, Tyhurst may look to improve upon his 5th place finish last year at Big West. Joining him may be Krawzcyk, Loren Bland (Sr.) and Art Avitia (Jr.). Bland and Avitia were 8th and 9th respectively in the 10k last year.
Two time Regional qualifier and All-Conference finisher Scott Brandos (Sr.-9:00) will return as one of Conference's best steeplechasers. He hold's a personal best of 9:00 at this distance. Tyhurst who narrowly missed the NCAA Regional mark last year at this distance will help with depth along with 1500m specialist Mike Chavez for the '06 season.
The additions of Jeff Campbell (1:53.9-800m) of OakRidge high in the middle distances as well as prep star Scott Smith of Dana Point (4:12.25 - 9:06.43) will also provide some young talent in the middle distances. For the longer events, Daniel Cuevas of Rialto and Waleed Totari of Damien will come in with personal bests of 15:07 and 14:58 respectively, both times under the Conference qualifying mark.
A new look hurdle squad will greet the Big West with the additions of top California prep athletes. A determined Nino Kolyouthapong (Jr.) will help lead the young roup after just missing qualifying for the Big West finals at the 400m Hurdle distance. New to the squad are a group of 40 second or under 300m hurdlers, Taylor Burrill (Maui), Elmer Guzman (Mission Viejo), Kris Shirley (Canyon) and David Taff (Edison). Burrill led the state of Hawaii in the 300m Hurdles with a mark of 40.63. Guzman comes in with a 300m hurdle time of 38.43, while Shirly and Taff held bests of 40.02 and 38.88. Also, attacking the 110m highs throughout the year will be Shirley and Taff.
For the second year in a row a healthy Ryan Donnelly (Jr.) returned for the 2006 season. Last year he showed what he could do with a Regional qualifying leap of 24-07 in the Long Jump to finish fourth just missing All-Conference honors in a great jumps conference. He also returns to help out with the reigning 4x400m champion squad as he has done year in year out. Northridge loses two of their most talented long jumpers to graduation but nonetheless retain two that have jumped over 23 feet in what shall be another good year for the jumps in the Big West.
Kent Centers (Jr.) and Jacob Maus (So.) return to the High Jump as they look to improve upon last year's solid season. Eight of the top ten '05 Big West High Jumpers return including Centers and Maus whom finished 6th and 8th respectively at the Big West Championships scoring valuable points and putting up consistent performances throughout the year. Centers was a Regional qualifier in 2003. The pair will also lend their talents in the long and triple jump for key meets.
Euegene Tuzkov (Jr.) returns to the squad after a red-shirt season in 2005. He finished 5th at the Big West Championships in '04 and vaulted 15-06 as a red-shirt in `05. Look for a strong Tuzkov to continue his rise in the Big West. Ten vaulters over 15 feet in the Big West last year return for another season of eligibility. The Gauchos will add one more to this list with Freshman Stephen Horrell, another Dana Hills graduate. Horrell vaulted 15-01 as a senior.
Without Bradley, the Gauchos nonetheless return a tough squad that made some waves on the Conference scene in 2005. In the Shot Put a young group takes hold with Scott Anderson (So.) returning from his stellar freshman season that saw him qualify for Regionals in the Shot Put and led the Gauchos with a mark of 55-11.25. With tough throwing squads from Idaho and Utah St. out, Anderson returns in '06 as the top returner; he was ranked 3rd in `05. Including Anderson, four 55 foot plus shot putters return to the Big West for 2006. Matt Barkley (So.-53-07) and Jeff Stewart (So.-52-11) will also return for the Gauchos after solid freshman campaigns. Barkley nabbed the eighth and final scoring spot at the Big West Championships.
In the Discus, '05 Conference qualifiers Reif Lawson (Jr.-158-01), Travis Leonard (So.-152-07) and Nick Sheurman (So.-144-01) return seeking a spot in the finals of the Big West Championships. Anderson may also find himself in the Discus for key meets.
Entering the ring for the Gauchos in the Hammer Throw will be Seniors Shaun Tolnay and Matthew Mettler. Tolnay just squeaked into the finals in '05 and will be looking to improve upon his mark of 167-04. The additions of Tim Delmundo out of Sacramento, CA and Victor Valadez of Sun Valley, CA will also provide a steady flow of talent to the squad for years to come.
In the Javelin, Gabe Mann (Sr.), will continue to rise up into one of the Regions' and Nations' top throwers. At the Home Opener a week and half ago he unleashed a 222-02 foot throw just a few feet short of a UCSB school record. That mark would have ranked him 16th in the country in 2005. In his first year out Mann not only led the Big West with a toss of 210 feet but also finished 6th in the Region just missing qualifying for the NCAA Championships. He finished 3rd at the Big West Championships gaining All-Conference honors. Gianpaolo Licata (Jr.) re-joins him as well after red-shirting his third year out.
The Gauchos will can be seen in action on Saturday at UC-Irvine for their first test, the All-Cal Challenge Cup versus UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC San Diego. They finished 2nd a year ago.