Thousands competed throughout the season, but in the end, only the top 16 in each event qualified. It all comes down to one last meet. The NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships are the best of the best and this weekend, three Bears will be representing Cal in Albuquerque, NM.
The three Bears participating in the indoor championships are redshirt junior Chioma Amaechi in the women’s weight throw, redshirt senior Hammed Suleman in both the men’s long jump and triple jump, and senior Milan Ristic in the 60-meter hurdles.
One factor that will play to their favor and give them a competitive edge is their familiarity with the venue. Both Ristic and Suleman have been to Albuquerque three times over the course of the season, and Amaechi has been there twice. The majority of athletes from other teams haven’t been to Albuquerque at all, so their experience with the conditions should give them an advantage.
Of the three athletes, only Suleman has participated in the NCAA championships before, having placed 12th in the triple jump in 2011.
“When I went in 2011, it was my first time,” Suleman said. “Nerves and excitement took over more than anything because when I was coming down the runway, I fouled my first two jumps and you only get a total of three to make it into the finals. So now, I’m really going to focus on keeping my composure, but at the same time still having that intensity,”
Suleman’s regular season marks, though very competitive, just narrowly managed to qualify him for the NCAAs. His long jump ranked 16th best, while his triple jump ranked 14th. Ristic, on the other hand, managed to record the eighth best 60-meter hurdles time in the country, en route to setting a Serbian indoor record. Amaechi ranked sixth nationally in the weight throw, rewriting Cal’s record books in the process.
This weekend is undoubtedly shaping up to be the most competitive meet of the entire season for the Bears, but they remain confident. Cal hopes to carry the momentum from its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) title in Seattle into these championships.
“I think based on what happened at Mountain Pacific (Sports Federation), everybody’s very positive and upbeat. We hope to come back with a bunch of All-Americans and a lot of points scored this weekend,” said Director of Track and Field Tony Sandoval.
It is important for the players to stay motivated this weekend, and Sandoval has been actively doing that.
“Coach has been saying a lot,” Suleman said. “He has a lot of inspirational quotes to get us going and get us thinking. The field is open this year, and it’s up to us to go and get it,”
Kapil Kashyap covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected]