Santa Barbara, Calif. - A small contingent of UC Santa Barbara Track and Field alumni will be competing at the USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships this weekend from July 25-28, taking place at historic Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, making this the fourth occasion for Des Moines to be selected as the host site for the national meet.
The outdoor championships will serve as a qualifying event for the IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships occurring September 27-October 6 in Doha, Qatar, allowing the top three finishers from each event at the US Championships (so long as they have the IAAF World Qualifying Standard) the opportunity to compete on the world stage. Three Gaucho alumni in particular will be competing for this opportunity in the likes of Stephanie Bruce (2007) in the 5000m and 10000m, Jenna Hinkle (2018) in the 1500m, and Hope Bender (2019) in the heptathlon.
Athlete Preview (all event times below are listed as Central Time)
Hope Bender (Women's Heptathlon)
Heptathlon 100m Hurdles (11:30 am)
Heptathlon High Jump (12:30 pm)
Heptathlon Shot Put (2:15 pm)
Heptathlon 200m (3:19 pm)
Heptathlon Long Jump (3:00 pm)
Heptathlon Javelin (4:05 pm)
Heptathlon 800m (5:14 pm)
Recently joining the local Santa Barbara Track Club after graduating this past June, Hope Bender will be tackling her first ever competition as a professional appropriately at the USA Outdoor Championships. Coming off a fourth place finish in the heptathlon at the NCAA Division One Outdoor Track and Field Championships last month, Hope was able to showcase her final season in a Gaucho uniform with authority, which also included a sixth place finish at the NCAA Division One Indoor Championships, three Big West Conference individual titles, and two school records. With the world qualifying standard set at 6300 points and Bender (holding a current best of 5955 points) coming into the championships ranked ninth in the nation for this year, she'll be hard pressed for a trip to the world stage. Breaking the 6000 point barrier or besting her current ranking however would be a perfect consolation prize for her first outdoor championships.
Stephanie Bruce (Women's 5000m and 10000m)
10000m Final (8:50 pm)
Women's 5000m Final (6:42 pm)
Representing Northern Arizona Athlete, the former two-time NCAA All-American (2006, 2007) and current school record holder in the 10000m has had an incredible 2019 season, including a 33rd place finish at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in late March, her second national title at the US Half Marathon Championships in early May, and a 5000m personal best at the USATF Distance Classic in 15:17.76.
Going into the championships, she is currently ranked tenth in the United States for both the 5000m and 10000m, but she will likely opt for her strongest effort to be in the 10000m as she finished third at last year's national championships in the same event, which was also hosted at Drake Stadium so she'll be in familiar territory. The race for that third and final qualifying spot could be hotly contested as there are five women, including Bruce (32:05.05), that are just fifteen seconds off the world qualifying standard of 31:50.00, so the race could potentially be a barn burner from the start. With some newfound speed in the 5000m and a strong 2:29:21 marathon personal best she set back in December at the California International Marathon, expect Bruce to be in the hunt for a top three finish come Thursday.
Jenna Hinkle (Women's 1500m)
1500m First Round (5:30 pm)
1500m Final (3:42 pm)
Last but not least is none other than current UCSB Assistant Coach Jenna Hinkle, who alongside her newfound coaching position at her alma mater has been adjusting to her first year racing as a professional athlete with the Hoka Aggies Running Club. The Two-Time NCAA Outdoor Championship qualifier in the 1500m has been making steady progress throughout the year, setting personal bests from the indoor 5000m (16:07.28) back in January all the way down to 800m (2:05.59) just this past weekend. In her marquee event, the 1500m, she comes into the championships ranked 27th with a 4:13.17 personal best, just squeaking by the field cap of 30 athletes. Much like Hope, Jenna will also be experiencing her first national outdoor championships against some of the best professional athletes the US has to offer, so hitting the world standard of 4:06.50 and finishing top three in the final may not be in the cards this year. Qualifying for Saturday won't be easy either as she'll either need to finish top three in her heat (ten women per heat) on Thursday or finish within the top twelve overall by time, but with proper tactics and a bit of luck, she could sneak into the final.