SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - This weekend the Gauchos will begin the first portion of the Big West Track and Field Championships. UC Riverside will welcome in sixteen decathletes and eighteen heptathletes competing for the title of "Best All-Around Athlete" in the Big West. UCSB will send five decathletes and one heptathlete down to test their event skills over the course of the two-day, Friday-Saturday competition.
UC Riverside Track and Field Stadium
Friday-Saturday, May 10th & 11th
Admission is FREE for the multi-events. Here is a LINK to the CHAMPIONSHIP ticket information.
Heptathlon: Day One- 100m Hurdles, High Jump, Shot Put, 200m. Day Two- Long Jump, Javelin, 800m
Decathlon: Day One- 100m, Long Jump, Shot Put, High Jump, 400m. Day Two- 110m Hurdles, Discus, Pole Vault, Javelin, 1,500m.
Aside from the event scoring, this one counts toward the team totals in the overall championship. The top-eight finishers will score from first to eighth, 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. Those points will be factored into the team totals next weekend.
UCSB Junior Darion Williams will enter the championship with the top mark in the Big West this season after his 6,578 performance at the Mt. Sac Relays. Williams, a Vista Murrieta HS grad will be traveling back home to the Inland Empire in search of bettering his fifth place Big West finish from one year ago. Williams was also last year's Big West Bronze medalist in the javelin and is currently ranked #10 in the Big West in the 110m hurdles with a 14.91 season's best.
Williams, a former CAL transfer has made big gains in only his second year at UCSB.
"Darion is just starting to figure out the athletic tools he was blessed with." said Associate Head Coach Cody Fleming.
"When you have great motor control as an athlete and a Corvette engine to back it up, neat things can happen. Darion is very new to the decathlon but his athletic background has enabled him to be a quick study of the event."
Billy Britt, a Canyon Lake native will also be at home in the Inland Empire. Britt attended Riverside CC before transferring to UCSB after captaining the Tigers to the State title.
Britt finished sixth at the 2013 Big West Championships in the decathlon before redshirting the 2014 outdoor season. So far this season, Britt has upped his personal bests in the javelin (167'1), pole vault (14'1.25), Discus (124'5) and shot put (39'9.75).
Britt was also a conference scorer (5th) in the high jump at the 2013 Big West meet, recording a jump of 6'3.5.
"Billy is a blue collar UCSB track and field type guy. He is a workhorse and a terrific student. He commuted an hour to school at Riverside CC, works a few jobs to make ends meet in the summer and earned the respect of every teammate he has ever had. We've literally had to kick him out of practice because he lives the decathlon." said Fleming.
"He'd be here all day if you'd let him."
Zach Tombol ranks #3 on the Big West season list going into the finale with a season best 6,411. Tombol, a converted thrower, was convinced he could be a decathlete. So much so that he convinced coach Fleming to let him try his hand in the event.
"My original goal for Zach was to see him pack on 30 pounds and take off in the hammer." said Fleming.
"While Zach did have some serious upside in the hammer, he also possess the mentality of a Navy SEAL. It was a natural move for him and after seeing his ascent in the decathlon after only one season, I can safely say he has found his calling."
Tombol placed fifth at last year's Big West Championships in the javelin and has a lifetime best of 187'7 in the event. While a prepster at Servite HS, Tombol paced eighth at the CIF State Championships in the discus.
Ike Okpara, a redshirt junior will graduate this spring. Okpara is a three-time Big West scorer in the high jump and decathlon. Okpara enters the weekend ranked #5 in the Big West with a season's best score of 6,167. A talented high jumper, Okpara boasts a personal best leap of 6'7.5.
"Ike has come a long way from his freshman year. His success in the decathlon has paralleled his progress as a student- the harder he's worked, the better he's got. It's all because of his desire to learn." said Fleming.
Jeff Oechsli completes the decathlon corps for the Gauchos. Oechsli, a sophomore from Agoura Hills, Ca., will start the weekend ranked #7 on the Big West descending order list with a season's best score of 6,071. Last weekend at the Cal Poly Dual, Oechsli became the seventh man on the UCSB squad to eclipse the 170 ft. mark in the javelin on the season. His mark of 172 ft. was a lifetime best and will be a welcome addition considering in his last decathlon he recorded a mark of 147'2 in the event.
"Jeff is young in the sport but as a former sprinter in high school, he has the wheels to blossom in the decathlon." said Fleming.
"He loves to run. When we were recruiting him, his Mother Kathy told me that he would run hills for fun in his spare time. That's the kind of guy that finds his way into the decathlon."
UCSB freshman Lolene Swallow will be the lone heptathlon entrant for the Gauchos. Swallow also an Inland Empire native via Vista Murrieta HS enters in the weekend ranked #4 in the Big West with a season's best 4,122. Swallow placed second at the Gaucho Round-Up in the long jump and has a season's best leap of 17'3.5.
"Lolene is very new to the events of the heptathlon but she loves the sport. It will be fun to see her develop in the multis." said Fleming.
The decathlon is set to begin at 1:30pm with the 100m dash on Friday, May 8th while the heptathlon 100m hurdles is slated to go off at 1pm.
On Saturday, May 9th, day two of the decathlon will start at 11am while the heptathletes will get a few extra hours of sleep as their long jump competition isn't scheduled to begin until 1pm.
Check back with ucsbgauchos.com for a full recap of the meet.