Gauchos Ready for Big West Championships in Kahuku, Hawai'i

Gauchos Ready for Big West Championships in Kahuku, Hawai'i

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.- The UC Santa Barbara cross country teams will compete at the Big West Conference Championships this Saturday morning at the Kahuku Golf Course on the Island of Oahu, Hawai'i.

The meet will start with the Men's 8k Championship at 7 AM (10 AM PST) before the Women's 6k Championship at 7:45 AM (10:45 PST). 

Big West Championships Hub

Last year, the UCSB men swept the top three places at the Big West Cross Country Championship, using the strength of their front pack to hold off the Cal Poly Mustangs. Completing their first title defense in school history, the Gauchos placed all of their runners inside the top-12 and edged Cal Poly 31-36. The UCSB women arguably put together their finest performance in several years, placing second to a deep Cal Poly squad. This was the highest finish for the UCSB women since 2010 when they won their last conference title.

Both teams will look to continue the Gaucho tradition of championship-racing excellence when they toe the line this weekend. 

THE COURSE

Previously configured as a 5k course on the north shore golf site, the Kahuku Golf Course's path has been modified to facilitate the women's 6k and men's 8k races. The race path will largely be run on Kahuku's fairways, with some crossover into the rough and around the course's sand hazards. 

Course Map

WOMEN'S PREVIEW

Junior Jenna Hinkle has led the Gauchos at every competition this season, logging a 6k season best time of 20:10.2 at her last race in Santa Clara. She has demonstrated this year she is moving closer and clsoer to becoming a national caliber athlete and will look to start her post-season run with a statement.

Senior Kelsey O'Connell has stepped up to be the Gauchos #2 runner and played a key role in the women's runner up finish last year. She will hope to make her final Big West XC performance her best, calling upon years of experience and steady improvement.

Supporting these two will be returners Miranda Ross, who has emerged to become a key scorer, andTori Yanco, who has shaped up to be a strong force in the conference. Newcomers Katie Camarena,Jade FullerCeleste Wilson and Isa Marshall will determine how high the Gauchos finish in their first XC Championship meet. 

"The women have pleasantly surprised me all season, turning in a better improvement curve than I anticipated." Head Coach Pete Dolan remarked about the upcoming test, "Cal Poly SLO has a juggernaut team but I see another strong team performance seperating us from the rest of the pack." 

With Dolan's guidance the women have won seven Big West Cross Country Championships: 1993, 1994, 1996, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007.

MEN'S PREVIEW

Senior Adam Avila has been looking exceptionally strong as of late, with a personal 8k best of 23:36.4 for 8k under his belt. Having already been part of 2 Big West Champion teams, Avila now looks primed and ready to hunt down a title of his own. 

George Baier will join Avila up front to lead the team as he has all season long. The Junior has had remarkable conference performances in the past and has proven that he is a force to be dealt with when it counts. 

Patrick BourkeAustin LayJackson Bright, and Andrew Verdin have traded spots this season in the top 5 and will work together to finally rise up for this special occasion. 

"Patience is the word for the men's squad this year", reflected Coach Dolan, "The hard work has been done, the talent is there, but I haven't seen it manifested fully in a race. Our patience will pay off if we can see something great happen as a team this weekend." 

The men have won 5 Big West team titles under Head Coach Pete Dolan's watch, part of the program's 16 combined championships. 

LIVE UPDATES

Race day updates will be posted on the team's Facebook and Twitter accounts. Follow and stay tuned for the full recap on UCSBgauchos.com