Cal track and field prepares for 120th Big Meet

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With Cal Day coming up this weekend, most students look forward to the festivities that are a part of this annual tradition. But not Cal’s track and field team — it remains focused. Its purpose this weekend can be traced to a motto imbibed in every Bear’s mind: Beat Stanford.

On Saturday, starting at 10 a.m., Cal will be hosting Stanford at the 120th annual Big Meet, in what promises to be a competitive event. Rankingwise, the No. 23 Cal men’s team stands above Stanford’s men’s team, which is outside the top 25. Stanford’s women’s team, however, is ranked No. 18 in the nation, while the Bears’ women’s squad failed to crack the top 25. These rankings are in line with a trend that seems to define this rivalry: Cal generally has a stronger men’s side, while Stanford is consistently able to dominate on the women’s side.

In the 119 meets so far, Cal’s men’s team has earned 67 victories compared to Stanford’s 50 victories (two of the meets resulted in ties). On the other hand, since the addition of the women’s meet in 1980, the Cardinal have accumulated an impressive record of 23-11 in women’s meets.

“Historically, I think more PRs (personal records) are set in the Big Meet than any other meet each year,” said director of track and field Tony Sandoval to Cal Athletics.

In recent years, however, Stanford’s men have seemed to have the upper hand on the Bears, capturing six straight titles from 2007 to 2012. Cal reasserted itself with last year’s efforts. Competition on the men’s side was extremely heated, with the Bears ultimately pulling out a victory, 85-78. Cal was able to make its push to first place with the help of individual victories from Tom Blocker (100 meters, 200 meters), Jordan Locklear (800 meters), Ray Stewart (110 meter hurdles), Randy Bermea (400 meter hurdles), Ethan Cochran (shot put), Scott Esparza (hammer throw) and Hammed Suleman (long jump, triple jump). With all but Stewart returning for this year’s meet, the Bears are hoping to repeat their success.

The women’s side was much less competitive, as Stanford cruised to a 102-61 finish. But the women were able to capitalize in two specific areas: sprints and jumping. Charnell Price captured first in both the 100 meters and 200 meters events. The high jump (Gianna Fernandez), long jump (Malaina Payton) and triple jump (Amanda Hunter) were all won by Bears as well. Cal also captured the first three spots in the hammer throw, with Shelby Ashe setting a freshman record of 201-10 on her final throw.

One factor that plays into Cal’s hand this weekend is home advantage — a luxury that it didn’t have last year when it competed in Palo Alto. Stanford and Cal’s rivalry in track and field is one of the most prominent rivalries in any collegiate sport, so expect deafening cheers from the Bears’ passionate fan base. With Stanford just across the bay, however, there will likely be scores of Cardinal supporters making the trip over to Edwards Stadium as well.

Kapil Kashyap covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected]