The UCSB track and field teams competed in the final day of The Big West Championships hosted by Cal State Fullerton. After two days of competition, three Gauchos are coming home champions while 12 others made it on the podium.
Malia Benson was the first Gaucho to grab the gold. She came out strong, earning the championship on her very first throw. She came out with a throw of 50.08 meters and followed that up with a mark of 49.62 meters. The athlete that finished second only threw 47.60 meters, giving Benson the two best throws of the day.
“In the javelin, Malia won the meet on her first throw,” said Director of Track and Field Cody Fleming. “In just her first year ever throwing, she has stepped up and met every challenge. She was over 50 meters for the second meet this season. We’re just scratching the surface on what she’s capable of doing in the sport. Her arm talent is unbelievable.”
Ethan Godsey was the next Gaucho to make his way to the top of the podium as he was crowned The Big West Champion in the 5,000. The freshman from Agoura Hills kept a steady pace, running in the middle of the pack to start the race. Once it came down to the final five laps, that’s when Godsey made his move. He pushed his way to the front of the line, eventually earning the first-place spot by the time the last lap came around. As Michael Phillips attempted to pass him, Godsey just picked up the pace, coming across the finish line with a time of 14:51.12.
“I was so impressed with Ethan,” Fleming said. “We wanted to give him a chance to go after the 5K and he stepped into the moment. For a true freshman to win this event; it’s unprecedented. He was in position with one lap to go and dropped a jaw dropping 58-second last lap.”
Leon Gillis is the final Gaucho to make it to the podium as he hit a mark of 2.14 meters in the high jump, which equates to 7 and a quarter feet. Gillis did not participate in the first two heights as he joined the competition at 1.96 meters, or 6-feet-5-inches. He cleared that and the next height on his first attempt before missing his first attempt at 6-feet-9-inches. Gillis went back, cleared it and then went on to clear two more heights in just one attempt, winning him The Big West title.
“Leon was on a different level,” Fleming said. “The 4×4’s were going on and the curve was packed with fans and athletes. It was perfect to have the high jump next to it all. Leon fed off the energy and jumped over 7 feet for the first time in his career.”
Along with those Gauchos, there were seven others who made it onto the podium today. They were: Mariana Lanz in the 400 with a 55.27, Madelyn Conte in the 400 hurdles with a 1:00.75, Tyler Holl, Brendan Fong, Justin Fong and Deonne McCrary in the 1600 relay with a time of 3:12.99, Kennedy Johnson with a mark of 12.44 meters in triple jump, and Brad Thomas with a throw of 63.66 meters.
By the end of the meet, the men’s team finished in fourth place with a total of 90 points while the women finished in fifth with 85 points. This was the final meet of the 2023 season for the Gauchos as they look to see if any of their athletes will earn a spot in the postseason.
Kristen Keller is the associate athletic director for communications and digital strategy at UCSB.