Eight Athletes Prepare to Compete at the NCAA West Regional

May 29, 2008

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The Schedule
Meet No. 17
Friday, May 30 and Saturday, May 31, 2008
2008 West Regional, NCAA Track and Field Championships
at Matador Track Complex | Cal State Northridge, Northridge, Calif.

Friday, May 30
Field events begin at 10:00 a.m. with the women's hammer throw final
Track events begin at 2:10 p.m. with the women's 4x100m relay preliminaries
Final event is the men's 5000 meter final at 7:30 p.m.
Events with UCSB athletes:
- men's shot put final, 4:00 p.m. - Matt Barkley and Jeff Stewart
- women's 5000m final, 7:10 p.m. - Danielle Domenichelli
- men's 5000m final, 7:30 p.m. - Chris Ashley

Saturday, May 31
Field events begin at 10:00 a.m. with the men's hammer throw final
Track events begin at 3:00 p.m. with the women's 4x100m relay final
Final event is the men's 4x400m relay final at 6:20 p.m.
Events with UCSB athletes:
- women's high jump final, 2:00 p.m. - Jane Doolittle and Christina Nowak
- women's steeplechase final, 5:15 p.m. - Bethany Nickless
- men's steeplechase final, 5:40 p.m. - Michael Powers

This Week In Track & Field
The road to the NCAA Championships kicks off this weekend with the Regional meets. Regionals determine which athletes advance to the NCAA National Championships, which take place from June 11 through June 14. UCSB and all other schools west of the rockies will head to Northridge this weekend for the West Regionals, which will take place on Friday, May 30 and Saturday, May 31. The Gauchos have eight athletes qualified for Regionals, four men and four women. Matt Barkley, Jeff Stewart, Danielle Domenichelli, and Chris Ashley will compete on Friday, and Jane Doolittle, Christina Nowak, Bethany Nickless, and Michael Powers will compete on Saturday. This will be the first trip to Regionals for Doolittle and Nowak, and the first time competing in the 5000m at Regionals for Domenichelli. Ticket prices are $20 for a two-day pass and $15 for a single-day pass. For students, children, and seniors the prices are $12 and $8 respectively. Two-day general admission ticket packages are available by calling the Matador Ticket Office at (818) 677-2488. There are a large number of schools participating and a sellout is anticipated, so patrons are being encouraged to purchase tickets in advance.

Chris Cross
Senior distance runner Chris Ashley is coming off a double-win in the men's 5000m and 10,000m at the Big West Championships, and he holds the seventh-fastest time going into the 5000m race at Regionals. Ashley was in a similar situation back in 2006, where he competed at Regionals and had an intrepid sixth-place showing in unfavorable weather conditions. He once again has a great chance at going to the Big Dance. He's had good workouts recently, and boasts a personal best of 14:03.26 that he set at the Stanford Invitational. There will be fourteen competitors in this weekend's race, and the top five will automatically advance to the NCAA Championships. Times are not as important as placement in this meet, which means that strategy, adaptability, and conditioning will likely be the determining factors in the outcome.

Nickless Checks In
The Regional meet is familiar territory for Bethany Nickless, who has finished as the runner-up in the women's steeplechase two seasons in a row. Back in 2006, Nickless made it to the NCAA Championships for the first time by running a 10:18.89 at Regionals. Last season she improved her time in the same race, running a 10:11.01 and meeting the Olympic Trials B-standard. A proven national-caliber runner, Nickless is once again in the `fast' heat, which is essential for grabbing one of the five automatic-qualifying spots. Nickless always has to be considered one of the favorites to advance, and the stage is set perfectly for a strong race and a third trip to Nationals.

Phenomenal Cosmic Powers
Consistency has been key for Michael Powers this season, as he always seems to fight his way to the front of the pack and hold his ground in the big races. He's won four out of the six steeplechases he's entered this year, and also had a strong showing at the Oregon Relays against a field that included professional runners from Oregon's racing clubs. His times are always right around the nine-minute mark, with his personal record clocked at 9:01.43. Most of the competitors in this upcoming race have been running similar times, and once again strategy and placement will be the most important aspects of the race. With his competitive spirit and knack for top-notch performances when it matters most, Powers could definitely be in the mix for a trip to Nationals. Like Nickless in the women's steeple, Powers is in the `fast' heat for the mens' steeple.

Double D
The race will be a little longer this season for Danielle Domenichelli, as she moves up a distance from the 1500m to the 5000m race. A year ago she finished in seventeenth place in the 1500m, and she had a seasonal best of 4:27.42. This season she comes into the 5000m with a time of 16:38.06, which she set at the Mt. SAC Relays in April. Danielle is the Big West Conference Champion in the 5000m and the 10,000m races, and still possesses a strong kick with good closing speed. She is the seventh seed going into the race, and is only five seconds off the crucial fifth position, well within striking range. With a season of Regional experience already under her belt, Domenichelli will be looking to ascend to the national stage in this weekend's race.

Throwing for Keeps
Opening Friday's competition for the Gauchos will be the two senior throwers, Jeff Stewart and Matt Barkley. Stewart is a two-time Big West Champion in the shot put and is competing at Regionals for the third year in a row. His best mark so far this season is a throw of 56'9.25" (17.30m), which he achieved at the USC Invitational on March 22. He took third place at Conference two weeks ago. Barkley has been dealing with a leg injury for the last month or so, but he recovered quickly enough to compete at Conference, where he came away with a sixth-place showing. His best performance during the regular season was at the Soka Invite, where he threw a personal-best of 56'4.50" (17.18m). This will be Barkley's second trip to Regionals.

Jumping at the Opportunity
The women's high jumpers have made significant strides this season, and will now have a chance to put all their skills to the test in a postseason meet. Jane Doolittle has cleared 1.75m on multiple occasions this season and boasts a personal best of 1.78m, which she set a couple weeks ago at the Big West Championships. Christina Nowak made the best of the last regular season meet at Occidental, clearing 1.75m to earn a trip to this weekend's Regional meet. Doolittle and Nowak clearly know how to deal with pressure and will be looking for some big clearances this weekend. The high jump will initially be run using the "five alive" format (which is not easy to explain), and will move to the standard format when fewer than nine competitors remain. As is always the case with the vertical jumps, the order of finish and the height needed to advance will be very difficult to predict. Also of note is that "jump-offs" will be used to establish a distinct fifth place if there are any ties, which means that misses at lower heights will not be a factor in determining advancement to the NCAA Championships.

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