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RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The Big West Track and Field Championships take center stage at UC Riverside this weekend with the three-time defending UC Davis women's team and the Aggie men's squad looking to continue making noise at the top of the conference standings.
The meet, which officially began with the multi-event championships at Riverside last weekend, will get underway on Friday with the men's hammer throw at noon. Field events will continue throughout the afternoon before races on the track start with the men's steeplechase at 3:30 p.m.
In all, finals will be held on Friday in the men's hammer, long jump, shot put and high jump while the women will contest finals in the javelin, pole vault, long jump and discus. Big West titles for both the men and women in the steeple and 5,000-meter run are scheduled for Friday as well.
Most of the scoring will take place on Saturday during a televised broadcast on Fox Sports Prime Ticket beginning at 2 p.m. and ending at 5:30. Field events will start at 10 a.m.
UC Davis put on a showcase during last year's Big West Championships which were held at Woody Wilson Track for the first time. Sparked by eight wins on the second day, the women rolled to their third straight conference title by totaling 194 points. The Aggies scored 106 points on the final day to place third on the men's side, giving UC Davis its best combined finish for its men's and women's teams since joining the Big West in 2007-08.
UC Davis will have four women defending titles won last year, including Ashley Marshall who has won the past two Big West titles in both the 100 and 200, and Raquel Lambdin who is two-time defending champion in the 1,500. Both used those titles last year to spark a postseason run that landed them in the NCAA Finals and All-America status.
Cekarri Nixon, who won the 400 and later set a school record at the NCAA West Prelims, will be out to defend her title along with Catherine Li who set a school-record (41 feet, 1.50 inches) on her way to the triple jump title.
Marshall enters the meet ranked No. 1 in the Big West in her two sprints while Nixon is top-ranked in the 400. Lambdin is No. 5 in the 1,500 but owns the best mark in the 800 in which she took second last year. Other top-seeded Aggies include Emma Redick in the 400H, Erika Barr in the steeplechase and the 4x100 relay of Marshall, Nixon, Redick and Holly Miller which set a school-record (44.70) against Sacramento State two weeks ago.
High jump school-record holder Katie Barber, pole vaulter Ariel Maroon and shot put standout Veronica Smart will contend for titles as well with their top-five Big West rankings.
The UC Davis men finished eighth at the 2013 conference championships but rebounded in a big way with a strong performance at last year's meet to finish third after flirting with the lead. It began with a stirring win by the 4x100 relay of Marcus Johnson, Kaio Sena, Sava Boyadjiev and Basil Okoroike and was later added to by Johnson's win in the 100 (10.36, wind-aided). Both victories were first for the Aggies at the Big West Championships.
Nathan Strum added a Big West title with his win in the 800 and is ranked second in the event going into Friday's prelims. The 800 will have a heavy Aggie presence this weekend with Cody Nguyen, Alex Grigoriev and Trevor Ehlenbach all entered. The UC Davis quartet owns four of the top five times in the event this year.
Trevor Halsted is seeded second in the 5,000 after going 13:58.78 this year to move to No. 2 on the Aggies' all-time list. The field events, led by Ben Parodi, Brandon Greenberg and Matthew Bender in the throws, will also look to score points. Parodi is ranked third in the hammer (193-9) and fourth in the shot put (56-7.25) while Greenberg is fifth in the shot (56-4) and Bender is fifth in the discus (168-2). Marc Toney is fifth in the Big West in the pole vault (16-0.85).
"We understand who we are and what we have to do," said Aggie head coach Rahn Sheffield about this weekend. "We also understand what's at stake to lose. This is going to be a fierce battle but I can guarantee you, with this team, win or lose on numbers, they'll be no losers on this team."