Next step, Sacramento: Cal track and field heads to Hornet Invitational

Athlete jumps in the air.
Karen Chow /Senior Staff

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A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Or so goes the old proverb; anything worth doing has a beginning. While Cal track and field is not quite traversing a thousand miles, and that single step is more like several hundred meters worth of relatively fast steps, depending on one’s event, the Bears are certainly at the start of their marathon of an outdoor season.

After kicking off the season at home, Cal will journey into the winter of the Central Valley for the Hornet Invitational at Sacramento State.

“It’s sort of a rehearsal for the rest of the season,” said head coach Tony Sandoval. “Number of people will be doing different events or two events to round out their profile in terms of preparation.”

The outdoor season is much longer than the Bears’ indoor season, so rather than burst out of the gates, athletes will charter more methodical courses in order to peak in time for Pac-12 Championships and NCAA regional qualifiers in May.

Some of Cal track and field’s very best will also be resting after the NCAA Indoor Championships last weekend. Athletes McKay Johnson, Tyler Brendel and Tuomas Kaukolahti returned as All-Americans, but each will take a breather after the emotional high of national-level competition.

“It’s a step-by-step process. You know? You don’t want to run your very best race or your best mark in March and then be running out of gas in May,” Sandoval explained. “I don’t think anybody who’s anybody is 100 percent by the end of the year.”

Athletes have to balance both academics and competition, both of which occur at the highest level. Seasons are riddled with injuries and stress.

It is truly a journey of many steps, but some Bears will turn that step into a leap. The Hornet Invitational isn’t some throwaway meet.

“Obviously, for those who didn’t do indoors or didn’t go to nationals… they’ve been training in the meantime to see what they can do,” Sandoval pointed out.

Freshman Hakim McMorris, brother of thrower and former football star Malik McMorris, is a multis athlete, meaning he will compete in the grueling decathlon. McMorris debuted at the California Outdoor Opener and will compete again starting Friday.

“He’s a little rough, but that’s OK — he has to start somewhere,” Sandoval said.

Additionally, Cal track and field will be targeting regional qualifying marks, hoping to place in the top 48 and have a shot at the NCAA regionals, which will be hosted by, of all places, Sacramento State.

Hornet Stadium possesses a special track surface known as Mondo that allows for “premium performance.”

“You run a little faster, jump a little further,” Sandoval remarked.

The Bears will have extra incentives, with opportunities to set personal bests and move up record boards.

“We’re running against the clock. We’re trying to throw or jump against the tape,” Sandoval said.

The Bears will go to the Hornet Invitational with improvement on their minds. Athletes will aim to step forward, not back, as the long outdoor season begins to unravel ahead of them. The journey of a thousand miles leads through Sacramento.

Jasper Sundeen covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected].