Gauchos Go In as Underdogs; Defending Champions

Gauchos Go In as Underdogs; Defending Champions

May 11, 2006

Big West Championships Flights & Heats
Big West Conference Media Release & Time Schedule
Cal St. Northridge Driving and Parking Information
Big West Championships Live Results
2005 Big West Championship Results

The Gauchos ladies enter the Big West Championships again undefeated in team competitions when at full strength, having won the All-Cal Cup, the Big West Challenge Cup and the Cal Poly SLO Dual Meet. They will walk through the gates at Cal St. Northridge as defending champs, however they will go in as underdogs yet again as a strong Matador squad, competing at home, comes in as the favorite. On paper it will be a fight between the Matadors, the Gauchos and the 49ers of Long Beach State. It will take perfection for either of the teams to stand at the end of the day as Champions.

This is Track & Field Championship time and anything can happen. As a team, you can bask in the glory of the individual, but at the Big West Championships it is the 5th-8th place finishers that you never see in the papers, making the headlines, that will win you a championship. Here is what the Gauchos will encounter to as they step to the line as defending Big West Champs, and here is what they have to do to have the opportunity be left standing at the end of the day as Champions again.

The Gauchos return the 2005 Track Athlete of the year in Kylie McCuen (Sr.), but this time around will add a strong supporting crew to hopefully pick some more points. For McCuen, she is on top of her game for the 2nd year in a row as she leads the Big West at 200m (23.79) and is ranked 2nd in the 400m (54.97). At 200m, sprint specialists, Deanna Goodwin of Northridge and Jasmine Winfield of Long Beach St. will look to dethrone her as Goodwin dropped under 24 seconds two weeks ago and Winfield sits at 24.07. At 400m, Conference leader Nancy Blake of Cal St. Fullerton goes in as the leader, however, McCuen ran her personal best of 54.52 last year at the Championships which is a little faster than Blake's seasonal best of 54.89. Last time the two met, McCuen got the upper hand and her seasonal best on Blake. Elise Geiger (Sr.) has had a great final season, setting personal bests from 100m-400m. She will focus on the deuce and the 400 hoping to pick up that 5th or 6th place in the 200m and maybe get on the podium in the 400m as she goes in as the third seed. Coming off of a torn ACL, Kerry Gamble (So.) has competed well this season and will enter the 400m as the sixth seed looking to pick three or four points for the Gauchos. In the Relays, the Gauchos are coming off of a 4x100m School Record set two weeks ago versus Cal Poly. Ranked second with their 46.42, the team consisting of Gamble, Geiger, McCuen and Leticia Pulido (Sr.) will go head to head against a fast Northridge (45.71) squad while fending off LBSU (46.81) and Fullerton (46.85). In the 4x400m Relay, Gamble, Geiger and McCuen will be joined by Diana Joyner (Jr.) where they are ranked fourth. As is always the case, the 4x400m at the end of the day could be anybody's to win with most of the athletes fighting fatigue from their other events.

Middle Distance
UCSB is going without and 800m athlete, but with two athletes from LBSU entered as the fifth and sixth seed, for those keeping score it will be an important race to watch. At 1500m, a finals only race with thirteen athletes entered, Megan Lewis (Jr.) and Hadas Moser (Jr.) will suit up for the Gauchos looking for the All-Conference, top three places. With no prelims, this will benefit those athletes who are doubling in the 800m as well, such as Jaclyn Pederson and Jenessa Botello of LBSU, leaving them a little fresher than they may have been. Lewis is ranked ahead of them in third, while Moser is sandwiched in between the two 49ers ranked 5th. Danielle Domenichelli (Fr.), also for UCSB is currently ranked ninth and will be looking for her first points as a Gaucho. Look for the NCAA leader, Dierdre Byrne of Cal Poly, a Graduate transfer from Providence, to take this race out from the gun.

Beginning with the 3,000m Steeplechase, Sophomore Bethany Nickless has continued to drop her School Record, racing to a 10:32.33. She leads the Big West by over thirty seconds and will seek out her first Big West Championship title on Friday afternoon as the steeplechasers will kick off the track events. Also, competing in the steeple is Christie Farson (Jr.) and Laura Zung (Sr.) ranked sixth and seventh. Zung has a personal best of 11:17 which she set last year and has steadily improved in each of her last races. Look for both to make a move on fourth and fifth which have 11:19 '06 bests. Last time the Gaucho ladies lost the 5,000m was 2001, when Jessica Lunt and a then Sophomore Katie Appenrodt finished 3rd and 5th. Since then they have accumulated the last four champions, four more All-Conference finishers, including last year's 1-4 sweep and 7th place finish out of Moser coming off of her All-Conference 3rd place finish at 10,000m the night before. This year, without a red shirting Big West Conference Record Holder at this event, Lauren Christman as well as her twin sister Lindsay who set a personal best of 16:44 in 2005, the Gauchos maintained the top three spots, with Lewis, Seanna Martin (Sr.) and Stephanie Rothstein (Jr.) all dipping well under seventeen minutes. Look for Moser as she comes in as the fifth ranked to attempt to repeat last year's 1-4 finish. But, first a few Gauchos will put themselves through the 10,000m. Lewis, last year's defending champion is in the 1500m, so look to Rothstein and Martin to go after a 1-2 finish. Rothstein comes in as the Big West and UCSB Record Holder in the 10k with a blazing 33:27.85, a cool two minutes and ten seconds ahead of the next best in the Big West this year. Martin having her best season of her career will go after Kramon of LBSU, last year's runner-up, as well as Ludi Valdez also LBSU who has the fourth best mark at 5,000m, a few seconds behind Martin. Farson, Liza Hitchner (Fr.) and Zung are getting after those coveted 5th-8th scoring positions which can make a big difference at the end of the day.

Stellamarie Hall (Jr.) has had a break out year in 2006. In the 100m Hurdles she will go in ranked sixth with a 14.81, while her 1:01.89 in the 400m Hurdles is third. She has consistently run high 14's and low 1:02's this year and racing at her best could move her up even further on the day. Also in the 400m Hurdles, Diana Joyner (Jr.) is seventh at 1:04.39. With only nine competitors, both will look to cruise into Saturday's final and then take care of business.

Pole Vault
Four out of nine, or almost half of the field; this is the amount of vaulters entered for UCSB. Last year, the Vault was one of the events which propelled the Gauchos to the Championship and they have again developed a strong squad to do some damage. Leading the charge will be Heidi Nyberg (Jr.) who finished 4th in 2005 with an 11-11.75 clearance. She has gone 11-05.75 in '06 and is ranked a familiar fourth. Jessica Horn (So.) and Melanie Sonby (So.) come in as the fifth and sixth seeds, while Shannon Moy (Fr.) rounds out the field for UCSB tied for eighth.

Jane Doolittle (Fr.) enters the High Jump competition as the only Gaucho with a Conference Qualifier. Having jumped 5-03 this year she is tied for fifth on the Big West flight list. In the Long and Triple Jump, Ashley Coelho (Jr.) and Heptathlete Katie Kramer (Jr.) will look to break up Northridge's grip in the jumps. Beginning with the Long, Northridge like the Gauchos in the distances currently top the charts with the top four marks. Kramer has gone 19-00 in '06 and is only four inches behind the Conference leader. Coelho has not had a stellar year, but has been known to compete well when the chips are on the table as she did last in '05 and can squeak into the scoring positions she can jump into the 18's for the firs time this year. In the Triple Jump, they will have their hands full going in ranked ninth and tenth. However, Coelho in '05 had only jumped 37-05.50 when she went 39-03 at the Big West Championships to pick up a 7th place.

The Shot Put, Discus and Hammer Throw will feature two Sophomores for the Gauchos; Charlene Heaston and Jamie Schwarzbach. Red-Shirting their top two throwers in Amy Haapanen and Heather Quinn, whom between the two of them scored forty-one points for the Gauchos last year, UCSB will still need Heaston's and Schwarzbach's critical points to have a chance at another title or to maintain a top three finish. Northridge, loading up in the throws this year, can win or lose their Championship hopes out in the rings. In the Shot Heaston is ranked sixth with Schwarzbach ninth. Out in the Discus they will enter the ring in seventh and eighth and in the Hammer seventh and ninth respectively. On the Javelin runway, Danielle DeBeaubien will be coming off a sixth place finish in the Heptathlon this past weekend to start the Gauchos off with three points. Having thrown in the teen's all year long, a surge in her performance since the dual meet against Cal Poly two weeks ago has her throwing her best as she has now gone over 120' in the last two weekends. She will go in ranked eighth, with 5th-7th within two feet of her '06 best.

The Big West Championships begin on Friday afternoon with the Women's Hammer Throw kicking things off on the field at Noon at Cal St. Northridge. Track events will fire away at 2:30 pm with the 3,000m steeplechase. Only an hour drive down the 101, come and support your home team at the Big West Championships!