June 1, 2008
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -- Athletes are always looking to peak at the right time; to run their best race at the most important meet. Michael Powers did that today, running a tremendous steeplechase and earning a ticket to the NCAA Championships as a result.
Powers entered the steeplechase seeded with a time of 9:01.43, which made him the eighteenth and final athlete to qualify for the fast heat. With this race he proved that he did indeed belong in the fast heat, finishing with a time of 8:48.18, faster than the personal bests of all but four of the competitors. His time was also the second-fastest steeplechase in UCSB history.
At the start of the race and for the first few laps, the competitors were bunched together as usual. A group began a small breakaway with five to go, but they didn't put much distance between themselves and the main pack. Powers lurked around the middle of the field and then slowly started to move up, eventually getting to the front of the main pack. He was in sixth with three laps to go and stayed there for a while, about fifteen feet behind the leading group of runners. With two to go he began to close the gap and make things interesting, as the fifth and final qualifying spot was still up for grabs. On the final lap he picked up the pace even further, moving up as high as fourth. He never slowed down and was able to hang on to the fifth position, earning his first trip to the big dance.
In the women's steeplechase it was not meant to be for Bethany Nickless, who finished in tenth place with a time of 10:32.61. The competition was fierce this year with six athletes going sub-10:20, which included a freshman winning the race at 9:58.68. Nickless leaves the track program as one of the most decorated athletes in Gaucho history, with two Conference Championships and two appearances at the NCAA Championships to her credit.
Also competing today were Jane Doolittle and Christina Nowak in the women's high jump, making their first appearances at Regionals. Doolittle got over the opening height at 5'7.25" (1.71m) and placed ninth. Nowak had a tough day and was unable to clear the opening height. The two of them will be back next season, and the experience from this meet should prove valuable down the road.
With Regionals complete, the Gauchos have a total of three athletes heading to Iowa for the 2008 NCAA Championships. Danielle Domenichelli continues the recent trend of strong 5000m performances, as she is the sixth athlete in the last six seasons to qualify for Nationals in the women`s 5000m race (there were two in 2005). Michael Powers is the first UCSB athlete to qualify in the men's steeplechase since Trent Bryson in 1998, and Chris Ashley is the first-ever UCSB qualifier in the men's 5000m race.
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