Cal track and field looks to stay hot at Big-10 vs. Pac-12 Challenge

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A long-awaited spring break kicks off this weekend for the UC Berkeley student body. This brief but needed vacation allows students to soak up the sun on a sandy beach or head home for some quality family time. Cal track and field will be soaking up some sun rays of its own this week, but it will be doing so in Tempe, Arizona, and the closest thing the Bears will have to family is each other.

The team may be on break from school, but there will be no time for relaxation as the Big-10 versus Pac-12 Challenge is set to be its most difficult meet yet.

Eight schools from two of the top conferences in the country will be competing in this meet. Representing the Pac-12 are ASU, Arizona, Cal and UCLA, and representing the Big-10 are Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State. While it is the battle of the conferences, it is still every team for itself, and the ultimate goal is to secure a spot on the podium.

In the first two meets of the outdoor season combined, Cal has only competed against one ranked team in rival Stanford. In this tournament, there are two ranked men’s teams, No. 15 Nebraska and No. 18 UCLA, and two ranked women’s teams, No.18 Nebraska and No. 21 Michigan. While Cal is not ranked as an entire team, it does have nationally ranked individuals who are looking to dominate the meet.

Junior Ashtyn Davis is currently No. 3 in the nation in the 110-meter hurdles, with his time of 13.89 making him the highest seed going into the meet. He will go nearly uncontested, as only one other competitor participating in the event is ranked in the top 10.

Davis’ biggest competition is fellow Pac-12 athlete Misana Viltz, a junior from UCLA whose time of 14.10 ranks eighth in the nation. The difference between their times is a nearly inconceivable 21/100ths of a second. But in the world of sprints it can be seen as an eternity.

In men’s shot put, Cal has two throwers ranked in the top 20 in the nation — freshman McKay Johnson at fifth and junior Peter Simon at 13th. These marks on their own are impressive, but the Pac-12 is home to some of the top throwers in the nation. Johnson and Simon will not only be battling each other for the top mark, but also three other top-20 throwers.

Junior Ashley Anderson, Cal’s top triple jumper, is ranked 12th. Anderson has taken first in the past two meets and will be the highest seed going into this weekend’s tournament. No other triple jumper in the meet even cracks the top 50, so she should have virtually no issues claiming the top spot on the podium.

Sophomore pole vaulter Lauren Martinez is in a three-way tie for the seventh spot in the nation. She will be competing head-to-head with fellow seventh-place junior Elleyse Garrett of UCLA, who shares her mark of 4.10 meters. The vaulters will not only be attempting to up their national marks; they will be fighting for a spot on the podium.

It will be 80 degrees and sunny this weekend in Arizona, but there is no doubt that the real heat will take place down by the track of Sun Angel Stadium. The Bears will not be partying it up in typical college spring break fashion, but their performances may prove to be worthy of some champagne showers.

Christie Aguilar covers track and field. Contact her at [email protected].