Cal men’s track and field wins MPSF team championship for first time in 21 years

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It may have taken 21 years, but the Cal men’s track and field team finally did it again: The Bears captured the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation team championship this weekend.

At the end of the two-day meet, the Bears amassed 96 points, beating out Arizona State by three points on their way to their first team title since the 1992-93 season. The women’s team ranked seventh — tied with BYU — with 38 points, marking a slight improvement from last year’s eighth-place finish.

Cal had a strong start to the meet, earning three individual titles on the first day from redshirt junior Chioma Amaechi in the women’s weight throw, redshirt senior Hammed Suleman in the men’s long jump and redshirt senior Malaina Payton in the women’s long jump. Amaechi, having set a school record in same event two weeks ago, surprised no one with her performance and earned her first career conference championship.

The Bears earned another individual title on the second day, arguably the most important of the meet, with Jordan Locklear setting a scorching time of 4:04.03 in the men’s mile run.

“The turning point for us was Locklear’s upset victory in the mile,” said director of track and field, Tony Sandoval, to Cal Athletics. “It symbolized that anything is possible. Everyone was closely watching the scoring after that. The drama in the mile relay was classic as Jordan (Locklear) anchored the team to seventh place and gave us a two-point cushion in the event.”

Aside from the individual titles, the Bears featured a number of other key performances, without which they would not have been able to win the title. Junior transfer Milan Ristic, who set the Serbian indoor record in the 60-meter hurdles preliminaries, earned second place in the finals for the event. Redshirt sophomore Jonte Grant also impressed at the meet, finishing in second place in the long jump, right after Suleman. In the 60-meter dash, Cal was able to earn a combined 13 points from the efforts of redshirt seniors Tom Blocker and Dash Oliver, who were second and fourth, respectively, with times of 6.72 and 6.81 seconds.

On the women’s side, Grace Beaudoin matched her personal record of 5-8.00 in the high jump, which she set in Albuquerque, N.M. on Feb. 15. Her mark was good enough for second place, behind Chauncey Summers of Oregon, who cleared 5-10.00. Aside from Beaudoin, Amaechi and Nijae Jones, who was 10th in the 800-meter run, no one else on the women’s team had a top-10 finish. Cross country runner Kelsey Santisteban, whom Sandoval noted as an athlete to watch for, slipped to 20th in the 3,000-meter race.

The close of this weekend’s meet marked the completion of the indoor track and field season for Cal. While only a few athletes managed to qualify for the indoor championships, the Bears certainly went out with a bang.

Kapil Kashyap covers track and field. Contact him at daily cal sports.