Cal track and field starts season with New Mexico Team Challenge

Ariel Hayat/File

The Cal track and field team will be lacing up its spikes for the first time this season Saturday for the New Mexico Team Challenge.

This is a small, indoor meet that bigger schools often use for their indoor track season opener. Because this is the season’s first meet, the Bears will mainly be getting reacclimated with the meet atmosphere and setting standards that will guide them for the rest of the indoor season. This will also be a chance for freshmen competitors to showcase their talents and figure out where they may fit on the team.

At the 2015 New Mexico Team Challenge, the Cal men’s team came in third place with an overall score of 62, while the women’s team did slightly worse, placing seventh. Though these are both respectable results, it is clear that Cal still has to do work if it hopes to top some of last year’s strong competitors, such as UCLA and Arizona State.

Last year, then-freshman Ellis Newton won the men’s 600-meter race and added a third-place finish in the 800-meter run as well. While he was the only Cal male runner to place first in any of his events, the men still did well in the events throughout the meet, earning them that third place spot overall. This year, the men will have to maintain last season’s consistency, while also improving their overall performance in order to beat out Pac-12 rivals.

The women, on the other hand, will have to make drastic improvements in order to up their ranking. Then-junior Sydney Gray placed second in the mile race, but her teammates lagged behind.

The track at the Albuquerque Convention Center where the Bears will be competing is only 200 meters around, so they will have to run races with more turns than usual, which is not uncommon in the indoor season. This is typically harmful to a runner’s time, because it takes more time to round a curve, but those who have experience with small tracks could see a rise in their place.

Outside of the running events, Cal had more than 99 athletes competing in the weight throw, shot put, triple jump, long jump, high jump and pole vault categories.

In 2015, the Bears had considerable success particularly in the weight throw events. For the men, then-junior Isaac Dan placed first in weight throw, only fouling once in his six attempts. Women’s weight thrower Chioma Amaechi, who was a senior during the same meet, took home the second-place medal in her event. While Amaechi will not be at the meet this year, returning throwers sophomores Destiny Parker and Ginika Iwuchukwu will look to build on her success.

Though they have a lot of work ahead of them, the track and field team is keeping their head held high as they prepare to face some of their Pac-12 rivals this weekend.

Lucy Schaefer covers track and field. Contact her at [email protected]