There is a well-known saying that goes, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” It is applicable to many different realms of life, from team sports to business strategies. In recapping Cal’s outing at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, it seems fitting to rephrase the words of wisdom as, “You’re only as fast as your slowest race.”
To be able to qualify for this tournament, the athletes had to acquire a top-16 time in the country. The NCAA takes an individual’s fastest time from the entire season, whether it came during the first meet or the last. Junior Ashtyn Davis qualified Jan. 28, senior Thomas Joyce on Feb. 11 and junior Garrett Corcoran on Feb. 25. There is no guarantee, however, that athletes can match, or surpass, their qualifying time when the pressure is on.
Going into the NCAA championships, Davis had a goal of setting a personal record in the 60-meter hurdles. In the preliminary round of the 60-meter hurdles, he did just that, running a 7.71 and setting a new personal record. But when it came time to run in the finals, where it counted, Davis ran a 7.83, taking sixth. Thus, the prelims time of 7.71 may be Davis’ new fastest time, but it meant far less when he followed it with a time of 7.83.
Joyce followed suit, running 4:01.02 in the prelims of the mile, just a few seconds shy of his personal record of 3:58.47. But in the finals, he finished with a significantly slower time of 4:16.77, finishing 10th in the event. The 15-second gap was a huge blow to Joyce’s shot at the podium.
Corcoran, unlike his teammates, only had one chance at the podium. His event, the 3000 meters, did not have a preliminary round and went straight to the finals. Corcoran ran an 8:20.31, a far less than impressive time than his qualifying mark of 7.52.10. He did not even come close to his personal record that sent him to nationals, and he ultimately took 14th.
All three members of Cal track went in as lower seeds – 15th, 13th and 11th. None of these men were favored to reach the podium, and logically speaking, it is not a surprise that the results played out the way they did. But it is not to say that they could not have reached the podium. Had Davis run a 7.71 in the finals, he would have placed third. Likewise, if Joyce had run 4:01.02 in the finals, he would have taken first. Knowing how close they were in their prelims scores make the losses in the final rounds all the more disappointing.
In the end, the Bears simply did not run their most successful races when it counted, and their fastest times were overshadowed by their slowest ones.
The athletes did not finish on top, but their successes throughout the season are worth acknowledging. For the 2017 indoor track and field season, that’s all she wrote, and full attention is now on the outdoor season.
Christie Aguilar covers track and field. Contact her at [email protected].