Meeting the contenders: Steve Sodaro

Cal track and field coach Tony Sandoval motivates some of his younger athletes by using Steve Sodaro as an example of hard work’s rewards.

After joining the Bears as a walk-on his freshman year, the fifth-year senior’s ambitions have changed from just competing on the team to winning an NCAA Outdoor title in the 3000m steeplechase.

“I’m going there to try and win, I’m not going there to get second place,” said Sodaro, who won the Pac-10 title in the event last year. “I’m putting myself out there and going for it.”

Sodaro was disappointed in his sixth-place finish last year, but his experience could help him surpass that previous performance.

“It was my first time (at NCAAs), I was kind of taking it all in but I’ve been there now and it’s time to get it done,” Sodaro said. “Training is starting to pick up and get moving, so I’m excited.”

Breaking down the field

Despite Sodaro’s late start to the season due to injury, he is still seen as a major contender in the event. According to Sodaro, a friend in the East Region heard other steeplechasers discussing how Sodaro overcame his slow start to qualify for NCAAs — and they didn’t sound pleased.

“I have to remember that people are afraid of me, which is kind of cool,” Sodaro said.

Along with Sodaro, a handful last year’s top performers will be present next week in Des Moines, Iowa. Among them are reigning champion Matt Hughes of Louisville, along with Stanford’s JT Sullivan and Benjamin Johnson.

Sodaro has a long-lasting rivalry with Sullivan and the two have competed several times over the course of the season. No seniors finished ahead of Sodaro last year, so the heart of this year’s competition is largely the same.

Image source: Cal Media Relations