Chelsea Reilly kept her arms pumping, legs churning, breathing at a constant rate the final 200 meters of her 3000-meter race. She crosses the finish line, exulted but the holder of a new school record in the 3000 her first time ever running the event.
The 3000 meter record has been one of several that has fallen this indoor track season. The Bears will look for the momentum they have built during the indoor season to carry over to outdoor competition, which will kick off the first weekend in March.
“The indoor season is a good stepping stone for outdoor because we are able to see where many of the athletes are in terms of fitness,” coach Tony Sandoval said.
The 2012 Cal track and field team features a majority of freshmen and sophomores with a sprinkling of juniors and a few seniors. The team has a strong base in its distance squad and talented sprinters and jumpers — all competing with the common goal of winning a Pac-12 Championship.
“We would like to really establish our program on the national stage and show the other teams what we are capable of when focused,” Sandoval said.
In the few meets the team has already competed in, several Bears have had strong performances.
Junior Deborah Maier slashed her own school record in the 5000 meters by more than 30 seconds. Maier redshirted last season but set the previous school record two years ago. Maier’s time of 15:29.24 stands as the fifth-fastest collegiate mark of all-time in the women’s indoor 5000 meters. The record is also the best at Cal in the event under any conditions — indoors or outdoors — besting the previous time set by Kirsten O’Hara in 1985.
Maier is also an Olympic hopeful in the 5000 meters.
“She has raw talent, and I think she has great shot at running for Team USA this summer” Sandoval said.
In the field events, senior Linda Oseso broke the women’s weight throw record for the second time this season with a distance of 62-4.00.
On the men’s side Collin Jarvis moved up to second on Cal’s all-time performer list with his mark of 7:55.11 in the 3000 meters.
The Bears have suffered their fair share of injuries early on, notably elite jumper Hammed Suleman went down with a stress fracture the first meet of the season. According to Suleman, he does not have a time table on his recovery, but he hopes to be back in time for the outdoor season opener.
“Even if I am unable to jump for the moment, I want to help the team in other ways,” Suleman said. ”I want to be a leader and make those around me better.”
The team will require a strong batch of leaders this season to guide the freshmen and sophomores. According to Reilly, the older members are emphasizing taking care of the little things, such as eating right, sleeping enough and practicing hard every day in the hopes that things will fall into place on race day.
“There is more talent on this team than I have ever seen,” Reilly said. “We are going to be defined by how hard we work and by how much we want to win.”