The NCAA Outdoor Championships ended this weekend at the Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. After freshman Walt Jones IV and junior Thomas Joyce finished their events Wednesday, sophomore Ethan Cochran competed in the discus throw Friday, while freshman Bethan Knights ran the women’s 5,000-meter race Saturday. Although the final results were mixed, there were a couple of bright spots to come out of self-proclaimed Track Town, U.S.A., for the Bears.
On Wednesday, Jones finished in the top third of his competition in the long jump, finishing with a final distance of 7.79 meters. His outstanding effort was good for a seventh-place finish and a new legal personal best, gaining All-American status.
Joyce, however, did not fare as well. His strong 2015 season came to a disappointing end Wednesday after he finished in 21st place in the 1,500-meter, unable to move on from the preliminary round to the finals Friday.
On Friday afternoon, it was time for Cochran to show the nation what he had to offer at the last meet of his sophomore year with the Bears. Unfortunately, Cochran did not display his best performance at Hayward Stadium, finishing with a throw of 54.50 meters and finishing in 22nd place. But this throw should not put a damper on what has been a very strong 2015 season for him. In May, Cochran was the runner up in the discuss throw at the Pac-12 Track and Field Championship Finals, and he set a career high in the discuss throw with 57.99 meters in the Cal Outdoor Opener back in March.
Saturday brought Knights to the starting line, where she was set to compete in the women’s 5,000-meter race for the third time in her career. She is the sixth Bear to compete in the event since the NCAA’s began hosting women’s track and field in 1983. While performing far from her personal best in the event, Knights still managed to run very well, considering her youth, and finished near the middle of the pack with a final time of 16:22.08 — good for 16th place among 24 competitors. Knights was the highest-placing freshman in her race, which speaks well for her future at Cal, as she will almost certainly improve in the coming years. The freshman beat Western Michigan’s Maria McDaniel (16:27.28) by five seconds and was the first Bear from the women’s team to score in the event since 2012.
This race caps an impressive season for Knights, who is only in her first season of competing collegiately. Her season was highlighted by setting Cal records in the 1,500- and 5,000-meter races for a freshman, and she ran the fifth-best time in Cal history in the 5,000-meter. Knights’ 16th-place finish should be only the starting point of a long and prosperous track career here in Berkeley.
Despite the ups and downs of the 2015 season, one Bear — Jones — was still able to gain the title of All-American at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. With the talent and potential that the four competing Cal athletes have, they will all look to improve this next year, when they will all return to the Bears, and will again start the journey toward All-American.
Chris Tril covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected].