Cal track and field looking to start 2017 strong

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Karen Chow/File

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Although it did not send any athletes to the NCAA Championship finals, the Cal track and field team saw tremendous growth during the 2016 season. And while looking at the number of athletes that made it to regionals compared to the previous season would be an obvious indicator of growth to many, the key to Cal’s success lays within the growth of their athletes.

The 2016 season started off slow for the Bears, as the team failed to turn any heads during its first indoor meet of the season at the New Mexico Team Invitational. Both of Cal’s squads were unable to separate themselves from last season’s results, as the men dropped to fourth place after a third place finish in 2015, with the women only jumping up one spot to sixth.

The early disappointment would not last, however, as several Bears had impressive outings at the MPSF Indoor Championships. Among the most notable was then-sophomore Simon Peter, who not only qualified for the NCAAs with a shotput of 19.09 meters but also broke a school record for the event in the process. Then-junior Eugene Hamilton III also had a record-breaking meet, as he once again bested his own school record in the 800-meter that he had set just two weeks prior.

The Bears ended up sending three athletes — Peter and then-sophomores Bethan Knights and Isabella Marten — to the NCAA Indoor Championships. None of the three, however, were able to qualify.

Knights, in particular, should play an important role for the Cal track team this season if it is to continue its upward trajectory. She was by far the team’s best distance runner as she consistently finished within the top-five at every meet last season, with the exception of three. After an equally impressive cross country season in the fall, the team hopes to have her advance farther than her 13th-place finish at last year’s NCAA Division I West Preliminary Round.

Peter and Marten also signal exciting things to come for the Bears, as both will be entering just their junior years. Starting from the end of the indoor season, Peter registered 10 consecutive events with a high mark of 60 or more feet in the shotput.

Marten, on the other hand, placed seventh in the triple jump at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and tied a school record for third place in the event in the process. Although they suffered the same fate at the Outdoor Championships as at the Indoor Championships, they have two more years to make sure that changes.

The warmer weather brought the Bears more success as last season progressed. Several athletes had impressive performances at the California Outdoor Opener, with strong showings continuing through the Hornet Invitational to the Stanford Invitational.

The success carried all the way to regionals, where 17 men and 11 women made their case for the championships. While the fact that the overall number of athletes grew by 12 from last year is impressive, the number of women who qualified nearly tripled, further showing improvement in every sector.

With the 2017 indoor season just a day away, there surely is a lot to look forward to from the Cal track team.

Chris Tril is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].