An array of personal records is a good sign that things went well for a team during a track and field meet.
The Bears experienced just that at the final home meet of the season, the Brutus Hamilton Open, where the Cal men’s and women’s teams came in first and second with 210 and 176 points, respectively.
The Bears performed exceptionally well in long-distance events on day one, as freshman Ellis Newton took second in the men’s 1,500-meter event with a time of 3:51.04, which eclipsed his previous best mark by four seconds. His fellow Bear sophomore Yohaness Estifanos finished third in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase with a personal best time of 9:11.29.
Cal’s day-one onslaught of personal records by the sophomores continued with Nijae Jones, who placed second with a time of 55.62 in the women’s 400-meter, and her teammate Khala Taylor put forth a mark of 119-11 in the javelin. Christine Canning recorded a high-jump mark of 5-8.75 that qualified her for the NCAA regionals.
To top it off, at his last home meet ever, redshirt senior Scott Esparza put himself in Cal’s history books with the best performance of his career by taking second in the hammer with a throw of 211-9 — a mark that put him in a tie for third in Cal history with Derek White, who set the mark in the 2013-14 season.
Day two saw the Bears ready to perform in the short-distance events. Sophomore Khalfani Muhammad won the men’s 100-meter with a time of 10.35, and he placed third in the 200-meter with a 21.21 finish. Freshman Karsten Wethington set a personal best in the men’s 100-meter with a 10.77 time, which put him in seventh for the event.
Junior Thomas Joyce made some Cal history with a first-place time of 3:58.69 in the Don Bowden Mile, which placed him ahead of Cal legend Bowden for fourth all-time, and in the process, he knocked off the indoor national champion from UTEP, Anthony Rotich. Cal juniors Leland Later and Josh Lewis took third and fourth with times of 4:01.33 and 4:01.84, respectively, in the event as well, which were personal bests for the two runners.
“For (Joyce) to beat Rotich, who was the indoor national champion last year, says something,” said Cal track and field director Tony Sandoval to Cal Athletics. “Thomas is going to be in a great position, because I think that he can kick with anybody. What is great, too, is that his training teammates Later and Lewis also ran around the 4:01 mark.”
The Bears said goodbye to 11 seniors, who wrapped up their home collegiate careers on Senior Day. The athletes ended their UC Berkeley careers on as high a note, with excellent performances that gave the men’s and women’s teams a first- and second-place finish, respectively.
In the context of their season, this meet finally showcased the Bears operating at their highest gear with the team’s wholesale domination of Utah State, Kansas State and UTEP. This kind of dominating effort evaded Cal throughout an up-and-down season and is an experience that the team can grow from heading into next year. It is especially encouraging that many of the performances stemmed from sophomores and juniors who will return next season, when they will have extensive roles in helping the Bears.
Shiktij Dave is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].