Cal track and field set for California Outdoor Opener

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It’s almost spring, and that means its time for a change of pace in collegiate track and field. This weekend, Cal track and field will get its first taste of the pristine outdoors when it hosts its opener to the outdoor season at home.

During this weekend’s meet at Edwards Stadium, Cal will be up against a field of schools that includes Stanford, ranked 16th in the NCAA in indoor track and field, as well as San Francisco and UC Davis. While this meet may be the first outdoor event of the season for the Bears, Tony Sandoval, director of track and field, feels that the indoor season served as preparation for what is to come.

“Most of the events indoors are similar to the ones that are outdoors, so there’s very little change in preparation,” Sandoval said. “However, there are some events that are not held indoors that are held outdoors. For example, we don’t do discus indoors. We don’t do javelin indoors.”

This outdoor meet comes on the heels of a historic week for the track and field program. In addition to the men’s team capturing its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, MPSF, Indoor Championship title in 21 years, Sandoval was also named the MPSF Coach of the Year. For Sandoval, this was the first time he received the honor and the first time since 1986 that he received any kind of coach of the year award.

The NCAA Indoor Championship qualifiers were also announced this week, and three Bears will be participating in the national tournament — Chioma Amaechi in the women’s weight throw, Hammed Suleman in the long jump and Milan Ristic in the 60-meter hurdles. The indoor championships will be held in Albuquerque, N.M., where the Bears have already participated this year, from March 14 to 15.

In the midst of all this excitement, it is important that the Bears stay focused. In addition to the introduction of a few new events for which the squad has been preparing throughout the season, Cal will need to be wary of the extremely difficult qualifying standards. Traditionally, outdoor track and field is more competitive, and qualifying involves the additional obstacle of having to go through the Pac-12 tournament. Therefore, the Bears will need to produce highly competitive times if they hope to represent Cal at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Last year, Cal sent a four-member group to the NCAA Outdoor Championships, consisting of Ray Stewart (110-meter hurdles and 4-x-100 meter relay), Hammed Suleman and Malaina Payton (long jump) and Amanda Hunter (triple jump). But none of these four were able to advance to the finals in their respective events. Hunter had the best performance, with a 12th-place finish, but still fell short.

For now, the Bears will take the outdoor season one meet at a time, and starting it off at home in front of their fans can’t hurt.

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