Coming into this weekend, senior Hammed Suleman was the reigning Pac-12 long jump champion. With the conclusion of this year’s Pac-12 track and field championships, Suleman continues to hold the same distinction, beating out an extremely talented group of athletes to keep the honor.
Cal’s track and field team traveled to Pullman, Washington, for the Pac-12 championships with the hope of claiming a number of individual titles as well as team titles. Unfortunately, Suleman had the Bears’ only victory in what was a disappointing weekend for Cal. Out of 12 teams, the women finished ninth with 44.50 points. On the men’s side, the Bears finished eighth out of 10 teams, with 67 points.
Having been ranked as high as 23rd, Cal men’s track and field was expected to perform better than eighth place. One factor that likely contributed to its struggles is the level of competition that it was up against. The Pac-12 conference is among the strongest in the nation, featuring No. 3 Oregon, No. 12 UCLA and No. 15 Southern California. The women’s team faced even more difficult competition, competing against three of the top-25 teams: No. 3 Oregon, No.10 Stanford and No.11 Southern California.
“We came very well prepared, with a lot of emotion, and I thought we competed very hard,” said director of track and field Tony Sandoval. “We had a few little slip-ups here and there. As a result, just a little bit here and there makes a difference in a conference like the Pac-12.”
Suleman’s finish in the long jump was historic, marking his third consecutive crown with last year’s Pac-12 championships and this year’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships. With a mark of 26-00.25, Suleman also set a wind-aided personal record for himself.
Despite the disappointing finishes, the Bears had a number of noteworthy performances. On day one of the events, junior Kelsey Santisteban took home second place in the 10,000-meter run with a time of 34:13.90. The hammer throw was a particularly strong event for Cal, accounting for 11 of the men’s team’s points. Derek White and Scott Esparza, who both set personal records, placed fourth and fifth respectively, while Isaac Dan finished in seventh.
On day two, White continued to excel, earning second place in discus with a mark of 188-8. The other highlights of the day came from Shelby Ashe and the men’s relay teams. With a mark of 206-1, Ashe set a personal record in the hammer throw en route to a second-place finish. The 4-by-100 relay team consisting of Dash Oliver, Dan Davis, Tom Blocker and Khalfani Muhammad managed a third-place finish despite finishing fourth in the qualifiers. Similarly, the 4-by-400 relay team, consisting of Joost de Jong, Randy Bermea, Jordan Locklear and Dan Davis, also placed third and ran a season-best time.
With the Pac-12 championships completed, only the Bears who rank in the top 48 for their event will be eligible to move onto the regional preliminaries for nationals. For the rest of the team, the Pac-12 championships marked the end of an exciting season.
Kapil Kashyap covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected]