May 27, 2006
The 2006 West Regional Championships concluded Saturday afternoon at BYU in Provo, UT with sophomore Bethany Nickless racing to an exciting runner-up finish. After a hot and windy Friday, day two of the Championships cooled down thirty degrees, dropping into the 50's for the final day of NCAA National Championship qualifying.
Nickless, flying in the day of her competition hoping to combat the effects of altitude, toed the line just before 4:30pm ranked 9th out of twenty one competitors with a personal best of 10:32.33. '06 Big West leader and UCSB school record holder, she would face the top fifteen best in the west in the top heat of the 3,000m steeplechase.
With the starting pistol firing away, Nickless and company headed into the first barrier tightly bunched. Two athletes darted to the front attempting to string out the field but no one would follow. By the third lap the pack had caught the two leaders continuing to move at a good pace. The young Gaucho found herself toward the back of the pack but moving well. Her best chances to qualify for NCAA's was to finish in the top five and grabbing an automatic qualifying spot, however the race was moving fast enough to where improving upon her time could have earned her an at-large berth to the National Championships.
Not wanting to leave things to chance, Nickless began to move up in the field as the pack begun to string. With less than three laps to go she made her way to the front looking as she belonged with some of the best in the country all season. Two laps to go; Nickless was still in the front, now leading a group of what was only five athletes. She was not only in a position to get the automatic qualifying spot but was also in the running to win the West Regional crown. One lap to go; it was now only Nickless and Fowler of BYU. In front of her home crowd, Fowler would slowly pull away to get the title, but Nickless never faltered powering down the straight away.
She would cross the line in 2nd, with a time of 10:33.54. Earning an automatic qualifying spot to the NCAA National Championships, she also set a thirteen second personal best and UCSB school record of 10:18.89 when her time is adjusted for altitude at 14.65 seconds. Nickless has dropped her Steeplechase mark by over twenty seconds in 2006 and will enter the National Championships in Sacramento, CA ranked unofficially 14th in the country.
Chavez in the Men's 3,000m steeplechase this afternoon set off ranked ninth in the West Region. Racing off of his best he would finish his '06 season in 12th place with a time of 9:35.84. Adjusted for altitude his time was 9:23.52, although as was the case throughout the weekend in the distance races, you never knew who would react how to the thinner air.
Also competing this afternoon was the Gaucho pack of shot putters. Never able to get their momentum as a whole going, the trio in the first flight would be led by Scott "Bear" Anderson (So.). On his third and final throw he would put one out past 54 feet landing it at 54-06.75 to finish 14th, seven places ahead of where he came in ranked. Big West Conference Champion, Jeff Stewart (So.) tossed the sphere 53-06.25, good for 16th and Matt Barkley (So.) came up short with a mark of 52-10.25 for 18th place.
In the Men's Javelin throw, Gabe Mann (Sr.) ended his bid for a National Championship spot as he continued to fight through some pains that have kept him from regaining his 220 foot technique. Sending one out just short of sixty meters, Mann would finish in 19th place with a mark of 195-11. Needing a twelfth or higher to be considered for NCAA's, a deep West Region got the best of him. Nonetheless, Mann, in his two years as a Gaucho, leaves the program with the #2 UCSB All-Time mark.
Rounding out the Gaucho Regional competition, Kent Centers (Jr.) and Jacob Maus (So.) were unable to clear a height in somewhat windy and cold conditions that plagued many of the competitors this afternoon. Maus entered at 6-09, while Centers entered at 6-11 as attempted to jump through a bad ankle on his plant foot.
UCSB now looks forward to the NCAA National Championships in Sacramento, CA beginning Wednesday, June 7th. Nickless has qualified automatically in the 3,000m steeplechase as earlier noted as has junior Stephanie Rothstein at 10,000m. Awaiting the selection of the at-large berths are sophomore Chris Ashley and junior Megan Lewis, both in the 5,000m events. Final selections should be made Monday evening.