How does a team keep performing at a high level when it’s always playing on the road? UCSB’s track-and-field athletes succeed by whipping up a home-like atmosphere wherever they are.
“It’s ridiculous how much our team cheers,” Gaucho high-jumper Jane Doolittle said. “We start every meet with an ‘Olé’ cheer and take it from there. Our track team is more tight-knit than any other team in the Big West.”
Inspired by each other, the Gauchos have done serious damage to the school record book. They have achieved eight new milestones at meets all over the state this spring. In each of the last six weekends, at least one UCSB record has been broken. They hope to keep that streak going Friday and Saturday (May 14-15) at the Big West Conference Championships at Cal State Northridge.
Barbara Nwaba got the Gauchos off to a good start in the conference multi-events meet last weekend. The junior won the heptathlon with a score of 5,552 points, the fifth-highest total in the nation this year and 340 points better than the school record she set in April.
Doolittle soared to fourth in the nation on May 1 when she cleared the high jump bar at 6’1½”. The 23-year-old senior, known as “Mama Buns” to her teammates, started a rhythmic clapping before making her approach to the bar during the dual meet at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Her friends and her parents, who came from Mountain View for the meet, joined in.
“It was a showy thing to do, but it worked,” said Doolittle. She never would have been so bold during her early years at UCSB. “I’ve grown to be more outgoing,” she said. “College has been life-changing for me.”
Keith Baker, coach of the Gaucho vertical jumpers, said Doolittle does her best at the meets where team scores are compiled. “Jane’s competitiveness feeds off her teammates,” said Baker, who came to UCSB three years ago from the University of Alabama. “The SEC [Southeastern Conference] has elite individual athletes,” he said, “but the team feeling in Santa Barbara is much stronger. It comes from Pete Dolan.”
Dolan, a UCSB grad in his 23rd year as head coach, emphasizes the positives. The track may be in disrepair and the team may lack resources, he said, “but I tell them to think about what they do have, starting with a beautiful place to live and train.” And they have each other.
Other Gaucho record-setters this year include:
• Senior pole vaulter Scott Finley, whose 17’2½” clearance at the UCSD Triton Invitational was 7½ inches higher than the record set 34 years ago by Brady Lock.
• Senior distance runner Scott Smith, who broke the 29-minute barrier in the 10,000 meters with a time of 28:35.71 at the Stanford Invitational and added another record in the 5,000 (13:56.72) at the Mt. SAC Invitational.
• Senior Danielle Domenichelli improved the women’s 5,000 record by 11 seconds to 16:01.20 at Mt. SAC.
• Sophomore Tayler Williams cracked 40 feet in the triple jump (40’3½”) at Irvine. Moments after Doolittle set her high-jump mark at Cal Poly, Williams came close to the long-jump record by landing at 19’3”.
• Sophomore Irene Kujore hurled the women’s discus 171’6”.
The Gauchos have been getting the job done in the classroom, too. Senior steeplechaser Katie Voigtlander has the highest grade-point average (3.86) of all UCSB athletes, an achievement that earned her the Golden Eagle Ring at this week’s scholar-athlete banquet hosted by Pete and Gerd Jordano. Other Golden Eagle award winners include Finley, men’s steeplechaser Julian deRubira and women’s shot putter Kayla Smith. All four athletes lead the Big West in their events.
CARPINTERIA SPEEDWAY: If you blink you might miss the sprinters from Gardena Serra High at the CIF Division 4 track and field prelims on Saturday, May 15, at Carpinteria Valley Memorial Stadium. The Cavaliers have the fastest 4 × 100 relay team in the state (40.66 seconds). Robert Woods, the state leader in the 200 meters (21.09), is a USC football recruit at wide receiver.
HOOPLA: Two marquee matchups of minor league basketball are taking place at the SBCC Sports Pavilion this weekend. The Santa Barbara Breakers host the Newport Beach Surf (West Coast Pro Basketball League) at 7:15 p.m., Saturday, and the Thousand Oaks-based L.A. Lightning faces the Oregon Waves (International Basketball League) at 3 p.m., Sunday.
ROOM WITH A VIEW: SBCC dedicated the new Luria Conference and Press Center atop La Playa Stadium last week. It is a gleaming three-room structure that replaces the shack that had served as a press box for 65 years. The only thing that could not be improved was the view — overlooking the harbor and the ocean out to the islands, it is unsurpassed at any other stadium in the country.