The track and field season is filled with a number of meets, both regional and national, that serve as preparation for qualifying for nationals. With 27 Bears and a relay team from Cal participating in this week’s regionals, the path to the nationals is clearer than ever — finish in the top 12 in your event and advance, or see your season come to an end.
From Thursday to Saturday, Cal track and field will compete in the NCAA West Preliminary Regionals, where it will battle for a spot in the national championships. For each event, the field is divided into two sections, and from there, athletes will advance forward in the same way a tournament is structured. Like a tournament, each competitor was given a seed based on his or her qualifying mark and assigned to a group accordingly.
To advance, the Bears will have to place among the top 12 in their respective events. But they’ll be up against a huge pool of talented athletes, consisting of those who qualified from all schools west of the Mississippi River. This includes nationally ranked opponents, such as No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 3 Oregon and No. 5 Texas Tech.
Several Bears look poised to advance to nationals with several ranked among the top 12 in the west region. Milan Ristic’s wind-aided time of 13.59 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles ranks him eighth in the tournament, while Derek White’s marks in discus and the hammer throw have him ranked ninth in both of these events. On the women’s side, Kelsey Santisteban ranks ninth in the 5000 meters and seventh in the 10,000 meters, while Shelby Ashe ranks eighth in the hammer throw.
After his team’s performance at the Pac-12 championships, director of track and field Tony Sandoval stressed the importance of getting the team refocused. Facing the challenge of balancing finals preparation with practice for the meet, the outcome of the Pac-12 championships was ultimately misrepresentative of the team’s abilities. With all their academic commitments out of the way, the team was able to dedicate its undivided attention to the upcoming meet.
“In terms of preparation, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning each individual and their technique,” Sandoval said.
It is also important for the athletes to be mentally prepared, which means being confident and being motivated. Coach Sandoval believes that it is essential that the athletes keep in mind the source of motivation that brought them to this point.
“It isn’t necessarily getting them more motivated because if they weren’t motivated, they wouldn’t be here right now,” Sandoval said.
One thing Cal may be unable to prepare for is the inclement weather conditions. The West Regional Championships are being held in Arkansas, where it rains frequently. Accustomed to practicing in the relatively mild weather of the Bay, the Bears may be up against stormy weather, including lightning.