Cal track and field set to compete at MPSF Indoor Championships for last chance qualifying marks

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Ariel Hayat/File

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Qualifying for Division I nationals is a dream for almost every track and field athlete in the country, and for many of the Cal track and field athletes, this weekend is their final chance.

On Friday and Saturday, the men’s and women’s track and field teams will travel to Seattle to compete in the MPSF Indoor Track and Field Championships.

The teams competing include familiar opponents such as UCLA, Stanford, Washington and Oregon. Because of the wide range of tough, nationally ranked competition, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship, or MPSF, is an excellent preview of the NCAA Indoor Championships in two weeks.

“We certainly want to place our people strategically so we can score as many points as possible, but it is such a competitive meet, it is almost like a qualifying meet if you run or jump to get to nationals,” said Cal track and field director Tony Sandoval.

In last year’s meet, the most notable performances included then-freshman Bethan Knights, who placed fourth in the one-mile run, with a time of 9:18.44. Also, then-freshman Kiare Tanner placed third in the women’s triple jump event with a height of 12.34 meters. Now graduated Chioma Amaechi placed second in women’s weight throw with a distance of 19.71 meters.

On the men’s side, the team tied for second place in the 200-meter dash, tied with Washington and UCLA, and then-sophomore Thomas Joyce placed fifth in the men’s one mile with a time of 4:01.56 last year.

Most of the Cal competitors at last year’s MPSF Championships were underclassmen who will be returning to compete again this year.

Junior Eugene Hamilton III and Knights, who both broke school records at the Husky Classic meet two weeks ago, will be competing on Cal’s distance medley relay teams on Friday, and in their personal events Saturday. The fact that they very recently competed on the Dempsey Indoor at the University of Washington, where they will compete this weekend, may give them a leg up in the competition.

This is an extremely important meet for everyone who is on the cusp of qualifying for nationals, and in fact, MPSF is the last indoor meet before then. The top 16 athletes in each event in the country and top 12 relay teams qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships.

“There are a number of school records that are in jeopardy. If we can’t qualify for nationals or win an individual title, we would like to come away with a handful of new school records,” Sandoval said.

In the two weeks leading up to the highly anticipated MPSF Championships, the teams for the most part have been tapering, as Sandoval has been careful not to overwork the team and worsen injuries before the big weekend in Seattle.

“We’re looking to step up individually, unite as a team and break our personal marks,” Hamilton said.

Lucy Schaefer covers track and field. Contact her at [email protected].