When the Cal track and field team went to Los Angeles to compete in the Pac-12 Championships, it knew it was going to be taking on some of the nation’s toughest competition. It showed, as neither the men nor the women managed to finish in even the top half of their respective team competitions.
While the Bears didn’t perform well as a team in the field events during the first day, they were still able to put up numbers that will give the team something to build upon.
Walter Jones, a freshman, placed third with a 7.65-meter long jump in the event’s finals. Redshirt senior Scott Esparza finished in fourth in the finals of the hammer throw with a 62.09-meter toss, while redshirt sophomore Ethan Cochran finished sixth in the shot put finals with a final distance of 18.73 meters.
For a women’s side that ended the first day of events in last place, it becomes hard to remember that there were still performances that stood out. Senior Cheri Chan’s longest javelin throw of 38.29 meters put her in 13th place in the event. Freshman Ginika Iwuchukwo’s shot put performance put her in seventh place, as she managed a 14.81-meter throw. Meanwhile, freshman Destiny Parker’s 13.57-meter shot put display earned her a 12th-place finish. Sophomore Kiare Tanner also notched a 12th-place finish in her event with a 5.66-meter long jump. Despite the fact that these performances don’t pop out, even performing this well against such stellar competition is an achievement.
The Bears managed to perform better on the track, especially on the men’s side, as they had a few standouts despite the fact that the team ultimately didn’t do well. Junior Thomas Joyce finished fifth in the 1,500-meter preliminary with a time of 3:42.06, which qualified him to perform in Sunday’s final. Junior Leland Later finished in 16th place, about nine seconds behind his teammate. Junior Khalfani Muhammad, who is also on the Cal football team, continued to be the Bears’ standout runner in short-distance events. He ran the 100-meter race in a time of 10.50, which landed him in fifth place.
Sophomore Eugene Hamilton III and freshman Ellis Newton placed fifth and sixth, respectively. They continued to show that the Bears have a solid future in the middle-distance events. They both qualified for Sunday’s final in the 800 meters.
The women’s lone standout on the track was freshman Bethan Knights, who has been the team’s standout in the long distance all season. She finished in ninth place in the 10,000-meter race with a time of 34:17:15.
After the challenging first day of this two-day event, the Bears were in ninth place out of 10 teams on the men’s side, ahead of only Washington State. Cal fared no better on the women’s side, where the team was in last place out of the 12-team field. Needless to say, both teams had some catching up to do.
The men once again did better here, led by Joyce. He has been the best on the Bears all season at providing bright spots for a team that typically struggles. He finished in second place in the final of the 1,500-meter race with a time of 1:51.391. Cal also finished in a solid fifth place in the 4×100 relay, where the team was anchored by Muhammad. Hamilton III and Newton performed fairly well in the final of the 800-meter race, finishing in the middle of the pack with times of 1:48.18 and 1:49.64, respectively.
These performances pushed the Cal men to eighth place, while the women stayed in last place. The Bears will look to take some of the stronger performances they saw at the top, especially on the men’s side, and turn them into success for the full team at the NCAA Western Regionals from May 28-30.