Cal track and field heads to Arizona for Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge

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Jinsu Elhance/File

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This weekend, Cal track and field will be taking their talents to Arizona State as they kick off the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge.

This will be the Cal’s first high-profile outdoor meet of the season, so expect some elite performances from competitors and Bears alike. As for weather, the desert sun will be a welcome change for Cal, which has been plagued by clouds and rain the past two weeks.

“Well, we’re pretty excited to head to Arizona,” said Cal head coach Tony Sandoval. “You know, we’re kind of tired of all the rain hitting all of our workouts. We’re looking forward to some good weather — some nice hot weather.”

Last year’s challenge saw the Bears end with just one first-place finish, a testament to the competitiveness of the meet.

What Cal lacked in outright star power, they made up for in depth. The Bears weren’t able to win that many events, but they made their mark with 11 top-three finishes.

Cal’s sole victor from last year, senior Ashtyn Davis in the 110-meter hurdles, has been on a tear so far this season. Through four meets this season, Davis has yet to finish worse than third place in the 60-meter hurdles during indoor competition.

In his first outdoor hurdle race of the season, Davis will try to defend his title in the 110-meter from last year’s challenge.

At the NCAA Indoor Championships, Davis may have added another first-place finish to his resume if he hadn’t crashed into the first hurdle, forcing him to play catch-up for the rest of the race.

Even with the setback, Davis set a huge personal record in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing in third place with a time of 7.63 seconds.

Along with Davis, redshirt junior Isabella Marten is another Bear to watch. Cal’s German leaper was just awarded Pac-12 Field Athlete of the Week, having recorded the third-best NCAA triple jump mark of the year at the Hornet Invitational.

Marten placed second in the triple jump at the challenge two seasons ago, and she’ll be eager to improve on that this year.

But the Bears’ true unsung heroes this season have been their throwers. Cal’s throwers have consistently competed at a very high level this season, garnering more than their fair share of top performances.

The women, led by the steady duo of senior Destiny Parker and freshman Camryn Rogers, will be sure to turn in some high finishes. The men will be anchored by a talented trio of underclassmen in sophomore McKay Johnson and freshmen Joshua Johnson and Iffy Joyner.

Between travel and elite competition, Cal track and field will have their hands full competing in Arizona this weekend. Expect some exciting finishes, because the Bears will be coming in with something to prove to the rest of the Pac-12.

“Well I think what we try to do all the time, regardless of the meet, is that we prepare as if it’s a national championship,” Sandoval said. “We prepare with the same kind of focus and mental attitude, regardless of the time of the year or the circumstances. You got to practice the same way all the time.”

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