Bears head to Stanford for Payton Jordan Invitational

Alex Turney/Staff

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Cal track and field makes its return to Stanford on Sunday — exactly one month after its last meet there — for the Payton Jordan Invitational. But this time, the competition promises to be far more intense.

Historically, the Payton Jordan Invitational is said to mark the unofficial beginning of the outdoor season for postcollegiate track and field. Postcollegiate track athletes from a number of countries attend the meet in the hopes of setting marks that will qualify them for the track and field world championships as well as the U.S. track and field championships. Throw in squads sent from schools around the country, and it’s easy to see why the Payton Jordan Invitational is considered such an elite-level meet. But director of track and field Tony Sandoval is not deterred by the competition. In fact, he views it as good preparation for the team.

“We’re trying to improve our standings for the regional qualifying meet in about a month, but this meet is also a good way to prepare ourselves for the competition at the Pac-12 championships,” Sandoval said.

Payton Jordan, the legend whom this meet was named after, was a prolific track and field coach. He was the head track and field coach at Stanford for 23 years and managed to produce seven Olympians and six national champions during his tenure. More notably, Jordan coached the 1968 US Olympic track and field team — a team that won a record 24 medals. While the invitational originally started in 2000, it was renamed in 2004 to honor Jordan and his remarkable achievements.

Over the years, the Payton Jordan Invitational has come to be known for its distance events, so Cal will sending a squad of approximately 25 men and women that consists primarily of distance runners. Contingencies of distance runners from schools across the nation will also be in attendance. On the other hand, with the exception of the throwing events, the competition for the field events is relatively sparse, according to Sandoval. As a result, Cal will be sending a small selection of throwers to the meet.

As this won’t be a scoring meet, the track and field squad is hoping to build upon the individual success it achieved at last year’s Payton Jordan Invitational. A number of athletes set high individual marks, including sophomore Kelsey Santisteban, who set a personal record in the 5000 meters with a time of 15:50.18.

With this being the last meet before the Pac-12 championships, Sandoval emphasized the importance of a strong finish for his team and of maintaining momentum.

“I think we’ve done very well so far, but there’s a fine line between success and falling short of your goals,” Sandoval said. “So we’ve got to stay focused and finish off as best we can during this championship series that we’re coming up to.”

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