Competing with six of the top 10 teams on the men’s side and five of the top 10 on the women’s, this weekend promises to be the most challenging slate yet for the Cal track and field team.
On Friday and Saturday, the Bears will be competing in two events: the Husky Indoor Classic in Seattle, Wash., and the Don Kirby Elite Indoor Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. Having participated in the Cherry-Silver Indoor Meet — held in New Mexico — and the University of Washington’s Indoor Meet, Cal is already familiar with both venues.
Cal will be split between the two meets, and nearly 45 athletes in total will be participating. Training for the meets was divided based on the broad categories of events, namely running and jumping. Most of the middle- and long-distance runners will be flying to Seattle accompanied by head coach Tony Sandoval, while the jumpers and sprinters will be headed to Albuquerque with associate director Mike Gipson.
Although the majority of the team will be travelling north, Sandoval sees New Mexico as a great opportunity for the team. He cited the altitude as being beneficial to jumpers and said it would make his team more competitive. The Bears, however, will also be facing stiff competition from the likes of track and field powerhouses such as Arkansas and Florida, who are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in indoor track and field as of Feb. 11. The rankings were determined by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
“The whole idea of the regular season is to try to get a mark from each individual that gets them into the NCAAs,” Sandoval said. “This weekend’s top priority is to get as many people to qualify for the NCAA championships.”
Noteworthy Cal athletes competing in New Mexico include redshirt seniors Hammed Suleman and Jonte Grant as well as redshirt sophomore Malaina Payton. Payton and Suleman both represented Cal at the NCAA championships last year in the long jump after qualifying at the NCAA west preliminaries.
More recently, Suleman earned a victory in New Mexico at the Cherry and Silver Invitational last month, recording a 7.70-meter jump, and Grant set a personal record of 50-7.25 in triple jump at the same meet. Another athlete Sandoval identified as “being right on the bubble” for qualifying is junior transfer Milan Ristic, who placed second in the 60-meter hurdles finals at Cherry and Silver.
Last year, Cal’s Deborah Maier and Chelsea Reilly posted record times in the long-distance running events. Going forward into this weekend, Cal hopes to improve upon this success by excelling in other events like the long jump and triple jump.
Kapil Kashyap covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected]