Cal track and field prepares for California Outdoor Opener

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Ethan Epstein/File

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One month into Cal’s track and field season and the Bears are finally racing outside.

This Saturday, Cal will be hosting the annual California Outdoor Opener at Edwards Stadium, where the Bears will compete against UC Davis and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to kick off their outdoor season.

With a meet as large as this, it will be important that the Bears stay on schedule. Luckily for Cal, after a week filled with rain, Saturday is projected to be overcast with only a 20 percent chance of rain. On the off chance it does rain, expect a few delays between the events.

Last year, Cal dominated in its first home meet of the season, taking a mind-boggling 17 first-place marks — including an impressive performance by Diab Davis in the 100-meter dash. Unfortunately for Cal, it will be without some of its top performers as it prepares for next week’s NCAA Indoor Championships.

“The people who are going on to NCAAs will not compete this weekend,” said Cal head coach Tony Sandoval. “They are in a training mode. We leave next week anyways, so we’re not going to be able to train much next week. For them, training is the objective this week, not racing.”

Some of those athletes include seniors Bethan Knights and Ashtyn Davis, junior Lauren Martinez and sophomores Tuomas Kaukolahti and McKay Johnson. While the official list of competitors has yet to be released as of press time, it’s unlikely Cal will send anyone other than those five to Texas next week.

For the rest of Cal’s athletes, the outdoor season has officially begun, meaning a new lineup of events will be on the menu for the Bears. For example, athletes who compete in the 60-meter dash and 60-meter hurdles during indoor season will run the 100-meter dash and 110-meter hurdles in the outdoor season.

Apart from the altered event list, outdoor track has an entirely different dynamic. With a longer and entirely flat track, races demand new strategies. The Bears will have to shift their race plans for the outdoor 400-meter track instead of the smaller indoor one. This weekend’s weather will also be a stark change for Cal, with the temperature slated to be drastically lower than the Bears’ usual conditions in the indoor facilities.

But one of the best parts of this midseason change is that some of Cal’s throwers will finally have their time to shine. Two of Cal’s standout performers from MPSF, senior Destiny Parker and freshman Camryn Rogers will finally have the chance to compete in events such as the discus and hammer throw.

Cal should be especially excited about Rogers. Rogers, who hails from the Great White North, holds the Canadian U18 and U20 records in the hammer throw and is the reigning Pan American Junior Champion in the event as well.

“Every meet is an opportunity to learn regardless of how the performance comes out,” said Sandoval. “We do have a number of young people, freshman (and) sophomores, that are still spreading their wings. We’ll be excited to see how they respond in their first outdoor competition.”

With a successful indoor season already under its belt, and more to come at NCAAs, Cal is primed to make a splash this Saturday against some quality competition. For Sandoval, after 36 years on the Bears’ coaching staff, this will be just another day for him to enjoy the day and watch his Bears compete in the first home meet of the season.

“I just sit back and just watch the sky, watch the movies, see how it unfolds,” said Sandoval.

Harshil Desai covers track & field. Contact him at [email protected]