Cal track and field team breaks personal records over weekend

On a weekend that saw six personal records broken, two distance runners on the Cal track and field team ran their way into the Cal record books during Saturday’s split-squad matchups at the Husky Classic in Seattle, Washington, and the Don Kirby Elite Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Eight jumpers set out to New Mexico, hoping to use the state’s high altitude as an advantage, while 30 athletes headed to the Emerald City to compete with well over a thousand other collegiate athletes with hopes of obtaining the qualifying marks to make the NCAAs. Most of the action took place in Seattle, where — in addition to the six personal bests being set — freshman Bethan Knights and junior Thomas Joyce made their way into school records.

Knights placed 13th in the 3,000 meters in Washington at 9:18.42, beating a 29-year-old record set by former Cal All-American Sally Woods in 1986.

“(Knights) was in a tough heat with some incredible girls, but she held her own and ran a great time,” said her teammate Sydney Gray on Knights’ performance. “After this first experience, I expect her to run a lot faster in a couple weeks.”

In the mile, Joyce clocked in with a time of 4:00.29, beating out his best outdoor mile time of 4:00.49 and placing himself on Cal’s All-Time Performers List at number eight and just a few seconds away from beating Cal’s indoor record holder, Mark Matusak.

“Cal has a long history of extremely accomplished middle-distance runners, and I’m very happy to be counted among them,” Joyce said. “I hope to get higher on the list as the season progresses.”

Not to be overshadowed by the two, four others athletes outperformed their previous bests during Saturday’s meet. Sophomore Khalfani Muhammad ran a 6.81 60-meter dash in his qualifying effort, narrowly missing the school record set by Tom Blocker last year by a 10th of a second.

Taking the lead with two laps to go, sophomore Josh Lewis took his respective heat in the mile while also setting a new personal best (4:06.88) with a gutsy performance. Juniors Leland Later (4:08.00) and Sydney Gray (4:42.66) set personal bests in the event as well, with junior distance runner Mariel Mendoza taking home her heat in the women’s 3,000 meter with a new personal record of 9:51.00.

Senior thrower Chioma Amaechi, who was the only Bear to win an entire event Saturday, made headlines of her own as she took the women’s weight-throw title with a distance of 20.33 meters.

The team aims to keep improving at the next meet at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Team Championship, where director of track and field Tony Sandoval hopes to get his athletes qualified for the NCAAs.

“They always feel they can get a little bit better, whether it be a throwing, running or jumping event,” Sandoval said. “But I think we made some big progress there — there were some true highlights.”

Chris Tril covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected].