Hope Bender, who just missed breaking the UCSB heptathlon record set by Barbara Nwaba, is following the 2016 Olympian’s footsteps and joining the Santa Barbara Track Club’s elite training group at Westmont College.
Bender, who took fourth in the heptathlon earlier this month at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, plans to compete at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships on July 25-28 in Des Moines, Iowa.
“My plans for next year are to stay in Santa Barbara and continue to train and compete at the Olympic Trials (in June of 2020), and after that we’ll kind of evaluate whether I hang the spikes up or keep it going,” she said.
She made big strides this year, placing sixth in the heptathlon at the NCAA Indoors and then earning top athlete honors at the Big West Conference Championships, breaking Nwaba’s meet record while winning the heptathlon with 5,814 points. She also set a new conference mark in the 400-meter hurdles (56.64) at the meet.
Bender completed her Gaucho career by placing fourth in the heptathlon at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with 5,955 points, just missing the school record of 5,986 that Nwaba scored in 2012. She also broke the school record in the 200 meters by clocking 23.63 in that event during the NCAA heptathlon.
“I’ve watched Hope compete for several years and I have always appreciated the focus, intensity and grit that she brings to her events,” SBTC head coach Josh Priester said. “Hope is someone who truly enjoys and embraces competition.
“A perfect example of all of this was in her final race as a Gaucho when she won and ran a personal best of 2:10 in the heptathlon 800 meters at the NCAA Championships to vault her up to the fourth spot.”
She is currently ranked ninth in the United States in the heptathlon and 11th in the 400-meter hurdles.
“I’m thrilled to be joining such an elite group of athletes and coaches, right in my backyard,” Bender said. “To be able to continue to compete post-collegiately is a dream and I want to thank coach (Gray) Horn, the entire UCSB staff and of course all of my teammates for helping me get to this point.”
The upcoming SBTC Elite calendar also includes the Pan American Games (July 26-Aug. 11 in Peru) and the IAAF World Championships (Sept. 26-Oct. 8 in Qatar).
DPLL JUNIORS EARN FINALS
Kevin Wirtz drove in three runs with a double and two singles to power the Dos Pueblos Little League’s unbeaten All-Stars past Fillmore 8-4 at the District 63 Junior tournament at the Goleta Valley South Little League complex.
The victory puts DP into Monday’s championship game at 5 p.m. against the winner of today’s elimination game between Fillmore and Goleta Valley South.
DP’s 12-hit attack included a double and single by Ryan Speshyock, as well as doubles by Luke Varesio and Naythan Bojorquez.
Sasha Holmes picked up the pitching win, allowing no runs and just two hits with six strikeouts through the first 3 2/3 innings.
DPLL 12U WINS AGAIN
Charlie Potter came within one out of a no-hitter, pitching the Dos Pueblos Little League’s 12U All-Stars past Ventura Coastal 10-1 and into the winners’ bracket final of the District 63 Tournament at Girsh Park.
Potter struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings of the six-inning contest before allowing his lone hit. Relief pitcher Taylor Nagy struck out Ventura Coastal’s final batter.
Emilio Aguirre went 2-for-2 with two RBIs while Nathan Hadsall scored three runs.
DP will play Goleta Valley South Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Girsh Park in the double-elimination event, with the victor advancing to the championship game.
HALLER, GOSS SHINE
Santa Barbara High sophomores Melia Haller and Lizzie Goss both placed high in the three-day Taylor Made VCJGA Junior Golf Tournament.
Haller shot scores of 86 and 83 at the Wood Ranch Country Club in Simi Valley and then concluded the tournament with a 76 at River Ridge to place seventh with a 54-hole total of 245.
Goss finished just a stroke behind her with rounds of 85, 78, and 83.
MEN’S WATER POLO
UCSB ANNOUNCES SCHEDULE
UCSB will play six home matches at Campus Pool this fall, which includes a visit from defending NCAA champion USC at noon on Sunday, Oct. 6.
The Gauchos will also hold their alumni game that day at 2 p.m.
UCSB will open its season on Sept. 7-8 at UC San Diego’s Triton Invitational. Its home debut is set for Thursday, Sept. 19 with matches against Ottawa at noon and Pepperdine at 6 p.m. in a designated nonconference match.
Other big matches for the Gauchos include a Sept. 21 date at NCAA runnerup Stanford and a home match against Cal on Oct. 27.
Other home matches will come in Golden Coast Conference play against Pacific on Oct. 19 and UC Irvine on Nov. 2.