May 15, 2014
DAVIS, Calif. - The UC Davis men's and women's track and field teams hope that home-track advantage works in their favor this weekend when the Aggies host the Big West Championships at Woody Wilson Track for the first time in school history.
The Aggie women are looking for a three-peat after capturing conference titles in 2012 at UC Irvine by just a half-point over UC Santa Barbara, and then rolling to a convincing 44-point win over the Gauchos at Cal State Northridge last year. The UC Davis men, who are coming off a decisive victory over rival Sacramento State in the Causeway Dual two weeks ago, finished eighth last season but look to move up the standings after enjoying strong marks throughout this spring season.
Competition on Friday begins with the men's and women's hammer throw events at 9 a.m. at the hammer ring adjacent to the Schaal Aquatics Center on the west side of campus. Field events at Woody Wilson Track will start at noon while the events on the track get underway at 4:10 p.m. with the women's 100-meter hurdles.
Nine field events will be finals on Friday while four events on the track - in the men's and women's steeplechase and 10,000-meters - will also offer early points.
Saturday's events begin at noon with the field events while track events will start at 2:08 with the women's 4x100 relay. The championship meet will be televised live by Fox Sports West beginning at 2 p.m. and will run until 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The Aggie women will enter the meet looking to return to the winner's podium, trying to become the first Big West team to win three titles in a row since Cal State Northridge captured six straight from 2006-11. UC Davis currently has the second-most banners among current Big West members.
UC Davis won seven individual titles along with the 4x100 relay at last year's meet at Northridge, including two by standout Ashley Marshall in the 100- and 200-meter dash, and Raquel Lambdin in the 1,500. Marshall was subsequently named the Big West Women's Track Athlete of the Year. Distance runner Alycia Cridebring won the 1,500 during the 2012 championship run and returns for her senior season meet this year.
Despite the back-to-back titles, head coach Drew Wartenburg knows this year's meet will be a tough one and that the previous championships have no bearing.
"We haven't created any extra pressure and one of the things we have talked about is the fact that this is 2014 and we are not competing against our own teams from previous years," he said. "We're just going to go out and do what we need to do without worrying about what everybody in the next lane is doing.
"We've tried to lessen the pressure," he added. "'Just put your best efforts out there.'That's all we'll ask for and hopefully it'll be good enough in the end for a favorable result."
The Aggie men were sixth in 2012 but dipped to eighth last year. UC Davis, however, has renewed optimism, particularly in the sprints were Kaio Sena, Sava Boyadjiev and Marcus Johnson have each put their names on program's all-time 100-meter list after that ledger had not see any movement since 2007. The three did the same on the 200 list and helped make up the school-record 4x100 relay (40.27) which blazed to a win at the Causeway Dual.
The distance events, behind Alex Grigoriev in the 800, Nathan Strum in the 1,500 and Trevor Halsted and Brandon Pugh in the 5,000, have also had their share of marks made on the all-time lists this year. Brandon Greenberg's career-best in the shot put (56 feet, 10 inches) has helped lead the field events.
"We have a deeper and larger group of men, numbers-wise, that are ready to compete," Wartenburg said. "We've emphasized for them to just contend. They're loose and they feel good which means they're going in without feeling there's a lot of pressure or expectations, which is a great place to be at this time of year."
This year marks the first time the Big West Championships - which began with the multi-events last weekend - have come to UC Davis. Wartenburg and his staff have been working hard to help put on a first-class meet.
"Hosting comes with both a privilege and a burden in terms of making sure everything is on point and that we stage a good event," he said. "We've tried to coach our athletes to the point where it's a home-track advantage, being where we've prepared throughout the season and performing our best at a place where they're comfortable."
Tickets are available for both days of the meet by visiting the UC Davis Ticket Office.