After two week break, Cal track and field travels to MPSF Championships

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A break is usually a time to unwind — but not for Cal’s track and field team. The Bears made use of the two-week gap between their last meet and this weekend’s upcoming Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Championships by not only recovering but also getting themselves refocused.

The Bears placed emphasis in practice on adding a little bit of speed across the board, whether in running, jumping or throwing. With the full squad traveling this weekend, the team will need to be re-energized and ready to perform. Also, unlike in most tournaments, almost all of the athletes will be competing in events on both days.

The MPSF Indoor Meet, being held in Seattle, has been a historically successful tournament for Cal. Last year, the men’s team finished third in the tournament, behind Arizona State and Oregon, and the women’s team finished eighth. The third-place result on the men’s side marked a huge improvement from being 10th two years ago, but head coach Tony Sandoval believes his team can still do better.

“I think the women are a little stronger this year,” Sandoval said. “We’d like to move up a couple of spots if at all possible.”

Despite very strong performances from the split squad in the last meet, only redshirt junior Hammed Suleman managed to qualify for the NCAAs with his performance of 52-2.00 in the triple jump in Albuquerque, N.M., an indoor personal record for him.

This weekend’s meet has the potential for several more athletes to qualify, including Kelsey Santisteban in the 5,000-meter and Malaina Payton in the long jump, both of whom qualified for last year’s national championships. In fact, Santisteban had a fourth-place finish in these MPSF championships last year.

Another athlete to watch is redshirt junior Jonte Grant, who will be participating in both the long jump and triple jump events. Sandoval also believes many of the runners in the 200-meter sprint have the potential to qualify this weekend. With this tournament being the last indoor meet before the NCAA Indoor Championships, Cal needs to take advantage of the opportunities it has this weekend.

However, standing in the way of the Bears’ hope to earn some NCAA qualifying performances is the competitive field they’ll be up against. The opponents they will be facing off against include the entire Pac-12, highlighted by No. 5 Oregon and No. 9 Arizona on the men’s side and No. 1 Oregon on the women’s side. Joining them are schools from the Big West such as Irvine, Long Beach State and Northridge State.

Kapil Kashyap covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected]