On Thursday, 20 athletes from the Cal track and field team arrived in Austin, Texas, for the NCAA West Regionals with hopes of reaching the marks needed to qualify the Bears for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in their respective events. While the whole participating team put forth a strong effort, only four Bears will be making the trip to Eugene, Oregon, to compete for a shot at becoming a national champion.
During the opening day of action, freshman Walter Jones and sophomore Ethan Cochran both advanced to nationals with stellar performances in the long jump and discus, respectively. Jones set a career best in the long jump with a leap of 7.80-meters but was 10th overall in the event. Cochran’s toss of 55.79 meters, good for seventh place, is enough to advance him to the championships, a testament to his consistent season.
“We are pleased and relieved tonight as both Ethan and Walt qualified to the NCAA finals,” said Tony Sandoval, director of track and field, to Cal Athletics. “Having only three attempts is pressure packed anyway, but to we had a number of lighting and rain delays throughout the meet. Both adjusted and made it through.”
Thursday also saw junior Thomas Joyce advance to the semifinals in the 1,500-meter, which took place Saturday. In the race, Joyce finished fourth in his heat and 10th overall with his final time of 3:46.82.
Among those who did not qualify but still received good marks were sophomore Josh Lewis and junior Leland Later, who also ran the 1,500-meter and finished with times of 4:00.65 and 3:55.46, respectively. Junior Jonte Turner finished with a time of 54.09 in the 400-meter hurdles, while sophomore Khalfani Muhammad finished in sixth in his heat of the 100-meter with a time of 10.42.
At the halfway point of the three-day meet, freshman Ashtyn Davis advanced to the semifinals Saturday for the 110-meter hurdles. During his race, Davis finished sixth overall with a final and career-best time of 13.79. Also on Friday, a miniscule .02 seconds were what separated sophomore Eugene Hamilton III from advancing to the championships in the 800-meter. He finished with a final time of 1:48.90, good for 13th place.
On the last day of regionals, the team found out who else was joining Jones and Cochran at the outdoor championships with qualifying marks made by Joyce in the 1,500-meter and freshman Bethan Knights in the 5,000-meter. After advancing past the preliminary race Thursday, Joyce secured his spot at the championships with a time of 3:43.23 in the final qualifying race. A career-best time of 16:02.49 also locked up a spot at nationals for Knights, who was running the 5,000-meters for only the second time.
These four athletes — Jones, Cochran, Joyce and Knights — have all proven themselves to be among the top athletes on the West Coast this weekend. Now it will be time for the Bears to prove themselves on a national stage. They must compete with the same intensity they did this weekend against the best athletes in the country if they hope to be able to call themselves national champions.
Chris Tril covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected].