Meeting the contenders: Ray Stewart

The lone junior from the Cal track and field team’s NCAA contingent has just as much experience as his senior teammates.

A transfer from Merritt College in Oakland, Ray Stewart wasted no time in his first season as a Bear —  qualifying for the 110m hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

Although this will be his first trip to the NCAAs, Stewart has competed on a high level before, participating in the US National Trials the past two years.

“I’m hoping to win,” he said of this week’s competition at Drake Stadium. “I really want to just go and do what I’m expecting myself to do. I put in so much practice and so much work and so much time and I practiced to make it to this level, there’s nothing left to do but do what I’m supposed to do.”

In the NCAA Preliminaries, Stewart took third in his heat of the 110m hurdles with a time of 13.56. Brendan Ames of USC finished ahead of Stewart at 13.44.

Stewart, however, had the upper hand on his conference opponent at the Pac-10 Championships — beating out Ames, 13.48 to 13.53, for the title.

Another staunch competitor this week will be the defending national champion, Andrew Riley of Illinois.

Riley, who took the crown last year with a time of 13.45, still appears to be going strong — capturing this season’s indoor title in the 60m hurdles. Winning another national title this week is by no means a sure thing for Riley, however.

“It’s all about what you do on that day,” Stewart said. “You can have the best time in the world but it only matters what you do on that day.”