As Cal track and field missed the podium in both the men’s and the women’s teams at the Pac-12 vs. Big-10 Challenge, it seems that national success may only come from individuals. Although the team had only one first-place finish, it did come away with 11 top-three placements while in Tempe, Arizona.
There is no ‘I’ in team, but there is an ‘I’ in California. There is a general notion that putting ‘I’ before team is a bad thing. This concept holds true in sports where players are dependent on one another’s lack of selfishness. But the structure of track and field is more comparable to that of the Olympics than that of a team sport.
In many Olympic events, countries send only their best individuals to represent them. In the same way, schools act like mini-countries when they send their top members to compete at nationals. Whether it be sending one representative or 20, having your school compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championships is a big deal. Cal will not be a dominant team that can win outdoor nationals, but there were a few standout individuals who showed at this weekend’s challenge that they could be a serious competitors.
Sophomore Lauren Martinez took second in the pole vault with a personal record of 4.17 meters. Her new mark set her as the sole owner of seventh place in the nation. While Martinez still has a ways to go before she is in championship podium contention, she is Cal’s best chance in the female pole vault.
Junior Peter Simon also racked up a second-place finish in the shot put. Simon’s throw of 19.19 meters put him at fourth in the nation. He is within a foot of the top spot in the country and still has plenty of time left in the season to reign as best shot put thrower.
Junior Ashtyn Davis continues to be Cal’s workhorse and most consistent runner. Davis took first in the 110-meter hurdles, giving him five total meet wins in 2017. Davis was also the lone Bear to secure the top spot on the podium as he finished the hurdles with a time of 13.89. He is ranked fourth in the nation, shy of the No. 3 spot by one-hundredth of a second and shy of the No. 2 spot by three one-hundredths of a second. If Davis can knock off a mere second from his time, he will be the fastest hurdler in the country and a huge favorite at the outdoor championships.
The team still has seven meets before the Pac-12 Championships where they will face some of the best athletes in the country. From there, any qualifying marks will head out for a shot at the NCAA Championships. While Cal would be overjoyed if its team could rack up the points necessary to win a national championship, it simply will not happen.
The Bears’ most likely path to an outdoor national title is through their standout individuals. Just as a country takes prides in the athletes bearing its name on their jerseys in the Olympics, a school takes pride in its athletes on the nationwide stage. As the outdoor season continues, each meet is an opportunity for these athletes to up their marks and qualify for championships.
Christie Aguilar covers track and field. Contact her at [email protected].