Big West Conference Championships On Tap for UCSB Track

May 15, 2008

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The Schedule
Meet No. 16
Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17, 2008
Big West Conference Championships
at Matador Track | Cal State Northridge, Northridge, Calif.

Friday, May 16
Field events begin at 9:00 a.m. with the men's hammer throw
Track events begin at 9:30 a.m. with the women's steeplechase
Final event is the men's 10,000 meter race at 7:25 p.m.

Saturday, May 17
Field events begin at 12:00 noon with the men's shot put
Track events begin at 3:00 p.m. with the women's 4x100m relay
Final event is the men's 4x400m relay at 5:55 p.m.

This Week In Track & Field
The Big West Championships will be held at Cal State Northridge this Friday and Saturday, May 16 and 17. Northridge are the defending champions on both the men's and the women's side. The Gauchos were runners-up to those squads last season. The men and women picked up five event titles apiece in last season's meet, and there are several strong contenders on this year's squad. Friday's competition features trials in most running events, along with a handful of finals. The championships conclude the following day with team champions crowned after the completion of the individual competitions. Live results will be posted on Flash Results courtesy of Don Chadez and his timing crew. Entries and heat assignments are also currently available on the same website.

Here's a brief preview of this weekend's action.

The Throwing Events
Jeff Stewart is the defending Big West Champion in the men's shot put. He's currently the third seed in the event, but he's capable of winning and has been waiting all season to unleash the breakthrough throw. He'll have good support from Matt Barkley, who has gone over the 17-meter barrier this season and should be able to score points. Stewart should also score in the hammer, and he could podium if he has a good day. For the women, Kayla Smith should place well in the shot put, where she's seeded at 46'4.75". Michael Guerra will get his first taste of Conference action in the javelin, where he has the third-best mark going in at 199 feet.

The Sprinting and Hurdle Events
Jason Newland comes into the 100m dash with a mark of 10.75 and will be looking to get past the prelims into the final heat. He's also entered in the 200m with a seed of 21.79, and he scored in that event last season. Sheneice Vargas has qualified for the 400m as a freshman, and she'll run in heat 2 with a seed of 56.92. The men will not have an entrant in the 400m due to the injury that has kept Ryan Martin out of action since late March. The Gauchos will have a pair of athletes going for points in the 400m hurdles, with Lauri Schakett competing for the women and Elmer Guzman competing for the men.

The Jumps and Vault
The women's high jump promises to be one of the most prominent competitions this weekend, with the national leader going against some formidable opposition. Cal Poly's Sharon Day will win the event if she performs well, as she boasts a personal best of 6'2.75". The Gauchos' own Christina Nowak and Jane Doolittle are the third and fourth seeds at 5'8.75". On the men's side, David Hoff is in the mix, as all of the competitors are bunched together in the 6'8 - 6'10 range. Nobody in the Conference has cleared 7 feet this season. Five competitors in the pole vault, which includes senior Melanie Sonby and junior Stephen Horrell, will ensure that the Gauchos are well represented. The pole vault is always too tough to call, as a solid performance can land anyone on the podium if the favored competitors have a rough meet.

The Middle Distances
Last year's champion and runner-up of the men's 800m have both graduated, so this race will be wide open. Salim Benmohamed has a great chance at a podium finish and will have good competitors to run with. Sarah Roth and Lindsay Brunner are in different heats in the women's 800m trials, where eight of the nineteen competitors will advance to Saturday's final. Gabe Lopez and Jayson Hayes will compete in the 1500m, which is going to bypass the trials and go straight to a final on Saturday since there are only twelve entries. The same holds true for the women's 1500m, where the Gauchos' entry is Stephanie Garcia.

The Long Distances
The first running event of the Championships will be the women's steeplechase, which will feature defending champion Bethany Nickless. Nickless goes into the race with a personal best of 10:11.03, which she set at last year's NCAA West Regionals. Her best time so far this season is 10:32.19 at the Payton Jordan Invitational. She is also on the entry list for the 5000 meter race, which will feature one of the favorites in Danielle Domenichelli. Danielle's best time in the 5000m this season is 16:38.06, the third-best in the field. She's within striking distance of the top times set by Brenda Martinez of UC Riverside and Kim Conley of UC Davis. It's also worth noting that the 5000m is the final race of the meet, and tends to be unpredictable since most of the athletes have already run a 10k, steeple, or 1500m less than 24 hours beforehand.

Chris Ashley and Tim Aukshunas are both entered in the 10,000m and the 5000m. It's a tough double to run, but don't be surprised if at least one of them goes for it. Ashley has the top time in the Conference in both the 5k and the 10k, and is definitely one of the favorites in both events. Aukshunas has the second-best time in the 10k and is capable of keeping up with anyone in the 5k as well. The steeplechase has the makings of a classic finish, as Michael Powers and UCI's Sky Johnston are separated by less than two seconds.

Link to Championship Information

Link to Flash Results West