The Cal track and field team will be splitting its squad this weekend, sending a small group to New Mexico and a larger delegation to Washington.
The Don Kirby Invitational will take place Friday in Albuquerque, N.M., as a one-day event while the Flotrack Husky Indoor Classic will last Friday and Saturday in Seattle.
Both locations are familiar to the Bears as they opened the indoor season with the Cherry & Silver Invitational in Albuquerque and took part in the UW Invitational Jan. 27-28 in Seattle. The team will return to Washington Feb. 24-25 for the MPSF Championships.
The Don Kirby meet will feature no event longer than 800 meters and the Bears will be focusing mainly on the jumping events. Coach Tony Sandoval indicated that the thin air and altitude of New Mexico foster a highly conducive environment for jumpers.
Junior Hammed Suleman will look for a strong performance in New Mexico; last year, he jumped a distance of 50-2.50 in the triple jump, becoming the first Bear in over seven years to surpass 50 feet in the event. Since that jump, Suleman has reached at least 50 feet in the triple jump every meet.
Cal will look for a strong showing from its distance runners in Washington. According to Sandoval, Washington has traditionally been a venue where runners make competitive times.
“Washington is the Disneyland for middle and distance running because some of the best times in the nation occur there,” Sandoval said.
The meet will also see the season debut of many Cal runners. Fifth-year senior Chelsea Reilly will begin her season running the 3000 meters for the first time in her career. Reilly is trying her hand at the 3000 meters after coaches saw a competitive cross country season from her.
“I’m excited to see what I can do at a new event” Reilly said.
Junior Deborah Maier, the school record holder in the 3000 meters, will also be running her first race of the season.
Running on an indoor track presents different challenges when compared to outdoor competition. According to Reilly, while the weather is not a factor, the turns on the track are often steeper meaning runners have to begin to kick earlier in the race.
The Bears will use Washington as a chance to assess where the team has strengths and where it can improve. According to Sandoval, the team is sending a number of young athletes to the meet and the coaching staff is anxious to see how they perform.
“We have really dynamic people and are looking great across the board,” Reilly said. “This meet is one of our first tests against some of the best teams in the nation.”