April 8, 2006
After a stormy March and early April, the Southland had a break in the weather to provide Friday afternoon's 14th annual Big West Challenge Cup hosted by UC Irvine with great Track & Field conditions. The first true team test for the Gauchos; the Challenge Cup has now become tradition with the Gauchos battling it out against Cal St. Fullerton, Long Beach St. and UC Irvine. With the sunshine came a record 6th Challenge Cup Title for the Women and third in a row, while the Men came in at 2nd.
The Gaucho women brought home the title scoring 201 points to LBSU's 178pts., CSF's 165pts. and UCI's 122pts. The Men hoping to come home with their first Challenge Cup title came up short to LBSU's 201.5pts. UCSB walked away with 165 in a close battle for second while CSF edged out UCI 156.5 to 156 for third. In a four team scoring system, in each event a 1st place finish garners 9pts., 2nd place - 7 pts., 3rd place - 6pts. and 4th-8th places 5, 4, 3, 2, 1pts. respectively. Also, the Challenge Cup format permits only two athletes to score from the same school per event.
Beginning at 1:00pm, the field events kicked off the meet as they held the spotlight through 4:00pm, the start of the track events. For the women, the early afternoon began with the Women's Hammer Throw where Charlene Heaston (So.) and Jamie Schwarzbach (So.) got the Women off to a great start with their 2nd and 4th place finishes. Heaston tossed the Hammer out past the 150-foot mark achieving a personal best of 152-02 feet, improving upon her #7 UCSB All-Time mark. Schwarzbach then put one out at 141-03, also a personal best and the #8 UCSB All-Time mark.
At the Pole Vault pit an hour later, Jessica Horn (Jr.) cleared 10-11.75 feet while Heidi Nyberg (Jr.) got a mark over the bar this weekend at 10-06. They were 4th and 5th in the competition. On the Long Jump runway being held simultaneously, Katie Kramer (Jr.) leaped to the top of the flight early in the competition with a jump of 18-01.50 feet. She remained there until the Conference from leader from LBSU bumped her off on her last attempt. Kramer still walked away with a nice 2nd place.
In the Women's Javelin, Danielle DeBeaubien (Sr.) who is gearing up for her 2nd heptathlon of the year next week at the Cal Invitational Multi's held her own taking 3rd with a mark of 113-10. Out in the Shot Put ring, Heaston and Schwarzbach were back at it again as they 2nd and 3rd this time. Heaston went 42-09.75, while Schwarzbach was marked at 42-06, just two inches shy of her personal best.
Getting started as the first running events took shape, the Women's High Jump saw Jane Doolittle (Fr.) get her Big West qualifying mark as she went over the beam at 5-03. Doolittle tied for 2nd with two others at that height but was bumped to 4th after factoring in misses at the various heights. Rounding out the Women's field events, Heaston and Schwarzbach finished 3rd and 4th in the Discus competition as they ended their afternoon of contributions to the Gaucho team point total. Heaston was just two feet shy of her personal best, but nonetheless took home a seasonal with a throw of 142-05 and Schwarzbach set a big personal best at 131-03, the #9 UCSB All-Time discus throw.
On the Men's side Gabe Mann (Sr.) started the day for the Gauchos in the Javelin. Also making his Gaucho debut was John DeLaney (Jr.) a Ventura, CA product. Mann, going head to head with LBSU's 2005 Big West Champion at this event would have his hands full yet again. Managing a 203-03 foot toss, he would fall short of LBSU's personal best just over 209 feet. Mann would finish 2nd. DeLaney, officially threw one out to 166-09 in his opener, although there was some controversy over whether or not his mark was mistaken for another's. If the mark was measured wrong, spectators believed that his throw was over 180 feet.
Concurrently with the Women's Long Jump, Ryan Donnelly (Jr.) was in his first of four scheduled events. In a great jumps conference, the atmosphere surrounding the competition is always highly energetic. Unfortuntley, it was not Donnelly's day, as he would only get one out past twenty-two feet and finish 7th. The Hammer Throw would be up next for the Men as Lawson (So.) and Stewart (So.) continued to compete well after setting personal bests a week ago. Lawson would go for 179-03, a little shy of his best while Stewart tossed the Hammer 173-0 feet. They finished 2nd and 4th in today's event. For Stewart his mark was a personal best and raised his #10 All-Time UCSB throw.
In the Pole Vault, Eugene Tuzkov would finish 2nd with a height of 15-01 as the Big West Leader from Fullerton easily out jumped the field. Kent Centers (Sr.) in his first of three events, cleared a personal best 14-01.25 feet to grab 7th. With the track events underway at 4:00pm, the Shot Put also began on the south side of the track & field complex. Matt Barkley (So.) who has been having a phenomenal year stayed consistent over 53 feet with today's mark of 53-11 and 2nd place. Following up the Women's 2-3 finish in the shot, Stewart would also finish 3rd with his second personal best of the day at 53-08.50, #9 on the UCSB All-Time charts.
The final jumps of the day saw Jacob Maus (So.) high jump over 6-06.75 good for 2nd place. And, finishing up the field events, the Men's Discus had Lawson of the Gauchos set a seasonal best throw of 154-05 good for 6th place overall, but the 5th scoring position.
At 4:00pm the Women's 3,000m Steeplechase set the tone for the women on the track. Bethany Nickless (So.), school record holder at this event took off right from the gun running a new school record and NCAA Regional qualifying mark of 10:42.21. Her first steeple of the year, Nickless unofficially ranks 7th in the West region, 21st in the country and is the Big West leader by twenty-five seconds. Also, Christie Farson (Jr.) dropped her personal best by just a few steps with her 3rd place, 11:25.06 effort. Finishing right behind her, racing a strong last half of the race was Laura Zung (Sr.) with a seasonal best time of 11:25.34. In the Men's Steeplechase, mirroring the women's finish, Micah Tyhurst (Jr.) would cruise to a win in 9:15.71 as Ben Berkowitz (Sr.) and Scott Smith (Fr.) would grab 3rd and 4th with times of 9:24.06 and 9:29.49 respectively. For Smith, it was his first steeplechase in his young Gaucho career.
On to the 4x100m Relay, for both squads it marked the first time all year the teams were running at full strength. On the Women's side, the Gauchos passed the baton around successfully coming across the line 3rd in 47.28, a seasonal best, #6 UCSB All-Time and currently ranks 3rd in the Big West. The men finished fourth in 41.92.
Next up on the track were the 1500m. The Gaucho Women were up against a tough UCI athlete who had clocked a Regional Qualifying mark a week ago. The plan going in was to secure 2nd and 3rd, which they executed flawlessly. Going out at 74 second pace the pack would stay closely bunched through 800m when Steen of UCI took off gapping the pack. Megan Lewis and Hadas Moser would counter moving to the front of the chase pack also separating themselves. Closing in on Steen the final 200m, the Gauchos would come up just short as they ran out of track by nabbed the 2nd and 3rd place spots with a personal best for Moser at 4:32.44 while Lewis was 4:32.84.
The Men lined up with the two fastest times in the field coming from UCSB. Mike Chavez (Jr.) and Scott McConville (Sr.) sat on leaders as they clicked off 62's. In the final 300m they would leave the others behind taking the win and runner-up spots. Chavez would cross first in 3:55.01, a seasonal best, while McConville would cruise to a 3:56.29. Chavez bouncing back from his poor performance at the Stanford Invitational 5k, appears to be back on track for an important stretch of the season.
In the first hurdle event of the afternoon, the 100m hurdles Stellamarie Hall (Jr.) again proved his consistency and the ability for the team to count on her in crunch time. She would take 2nd splitting up Fullerton's top hurdlers, setting a wind legal personal best of 14.84. The Gaucho Men were led by Kent Centers who was busy jumping a variety of events to help out the squad. Traditionally a high jumper, he would finish 6th in 16.04.
Kylie McCuen (Sr.) began her afternoon in the 400m dash. '05 Big West Champion at the distance, for the second week in a row she would face the top athletes in the Big West, this time in Blake, the Big West leader at 400m. Showing her strength as the season inches closer to the Big West Championships, McCuen left no doubt in anybody's mind why she was last year's Track Athlete of the Year as she almost a second ahead of Blake, dipping under 55 seconds for the first time this year. Her 54.97 still ranks behind Blake's early season mark in the Big West. Kerry Gamble (So.) was fourth in 57.58. Max Bellissimo (So.) for the Men in the 400m would equal the Big West qualifying mark of 48.99 en route to his 3rd place finish. It was his first time under 49 seconds this year and ranks 8th in the Big West unofficially.
At 100m, Elise Geiger (Sr.) was only .01 off her personal best in the fastest event on the track with a third place finish in 12.24. Leticia Pulido (Sr.) however did set a wind-legal personal best in finishing 4th with a 12.41, only .01 off the UCSB All-Time list. On the Men's side Ryan Donnelly jumped in his first track event of the day taking 4th in 10.92.
Traditionally a guaranteed win for the Gauchos, the Men's 800m was without UCSB All-American Tetlo Emmen who is red-shirting his senior year. Dominating the Big West 800m over the last seven years, it was up to Chavez and McConville who were dropping down in distance to step up to the challenge. Just off the mark and a little tired from their double, Chavez still managed a 2nd place effort in 1:55.09 while McConville was 5th in 1:56.87. For the Women, Moser finished 5th in a seasonal best 2:17.99 after a great 1500m, while Katie Kramer (Jr.) would be the Gauchos 2nd scorer out of the 2nd heat which she won in 2:19.89.
The final hurdle event of the day, Stellamarie Hall capped off her afternoon with a 3rd place finish in 63.60. Slowing down a bit on turn two and falling back a few spots, Hall regained her composure to finish strong over the final barrier to grab that important 3rd for the Gauchos which at the time were four points down on Long Beach St. Elmer Guzman (Fr.) was back in action on the Men's side, recovering from his minor injury well with a 6th place finish in 58.29.
Doubling back in the 200m, McCuen for the Women and Donnelly for the Men laced up their spikes for what proved to be the fastest Big West races of the year at the distance. First up, McCuen again would battle her closest rival in the Big West, this time in Winfield from LBSU. And, again she would sprint way from her by almost half a second, a large margin at 200m, tying her seasonal best and Big West leading mark of 24.07. Geiger was 3rd in 24.92 as it moved the Gauchos ahead of LBSU in the team scoring. Donnelly, went head to head against some of the best in the Big West. A finish too close to tell even for the automated timing systems at first, Donnelly would take 4th in 21.74 after tying up a bit in the final 50m. 1st and 2nd were 21.64, the Big West leading marks. Donnelly's mark was a personal best and moves him up to #5 on the UCSB All-Time charts. Bellissimo was 6th in a seasonal best mark of 22.06.
With two events remaining, the Women's team Championship was still up for grabs between UCSB and LBSU, with the Gauchos ahead, while on the Men's side the 49ers of Long Beach had built an insurmountable lead, but the Gauchos found themselves in a close battle for 2nd. One of the strongest events for the Gaucho Women, the 3,000m, Stephanie Rothstein (Jr.) and Seanna Martin (Sr.) pulled away from the field half way through the race also helping the team pull away from LBSU for the Challenge Cup title. After a record-breaking performance last weekend, Rothstein would stroll across the line alongside teammate Martin for the 1-2 finish in 9:53.34 and 9:53.38. For Martin it was a big personal best and also put her on the UCSB All-Time list at #10.
The Men's 3k, went out quite a bit slow for the field as they came through 1,000m in 2:54 and the mile in 4:38. With the Gauchos running a conservative race through the first half, Chris Ashley (So.) would finally break away from the field with 1,000m to go. Two laps to go he would drop a 64 second lap and back it up with a 62 second bell lap to win by five seconds in a personal best 8:26.94 and the #9 UCSB All-Time mark. Waleed Totari (Fr.) was the Gauchos second athlete across the line in 5th a new personal best of 8:39.30.
Ending the Challenge Cup with the showcase event, the 4x400m relay, both Men's & Women's squads would put on a show for the fans. On the Women's side, running Geiger and McCuen together for the first time in a few weeks, there was a strong possibility at getting after the school record of 3:44.77 done in 2004. Beginning with Geiger, she would lead off with a 56 second split, followed by Diana Joyner's (Jr.) 59. Gamble would next take over maintaining 2nd place for the Gauchos behind Fullerton with a 57 split. McCuen would then take over blowing by Fullerton's anchor leg burning up the track with a 54.1 split. The Gauchos would run a seasonal best 3:46.59, the 3rd UCSB All-Time mark and 2nd best mark in Big West for 2006.
The Men, not running Donnelly with first place out of reach went in with Bellissimo, Kai Glover (So.), Justin Morgan (3rd) and Kris Shirley (Fr.). Their fastest time of the year was a 3:19.6 achieved at the home opener back in February, but they had not dipped under 3:20 since. In this particular field they were going up against three of the four top Big West schools. Bellissimo would get out strong with his best split of the year in 48.59. Glover would then run possibly his fastest 300m of his career, tying up a bit, but nonetheless keeping the Gauchos in the pack with a 50.1. Then, Morgan in what may be one of toughest and performances in his UCSB career would take the Gauchos to the lead with a 48.4. Shirley on the anchor took it to the wire grabbing 3rd place by inches with a 48.8 anchor. Their final time of 3:15.72 is currently 3rd in the Big West behind Fullerton and LBSU who ran 3:15.21 and 3:15.59 to finish just ahead of the Gauchos.
The squads will next split three-ways next week to get after more Big West and Regional qualifying marks. The action all begins with the Cal Invitational Multi's at Azusa Pacific on Wednesday and Thursday. The Mt. SAC Relays will take place from Thursday-Saturday and the Pomona Invite where the majority of the Gauchos will compete all day Friday.