The Cal presence at the NCAA Indoor Championships is a representation of the big strides the program has made from this season to last. Last year, no one from the Cal track and field teams qualified for NCAAs, but this year, the Bears sent three athletes on a journey to the national meet hosted in Birmingham, Alabama.
First up for Cal on Saturday was sophomore Peter Simon, who threw for a distance of 18.36 in the men’s shot put, leaving him ranked 13th overall. He fell slightly short of his qualifying distance of 19.09 meters. Considering the personal best that he set at the MPSF Championships last year of 16.47 meters, he has clearly made impressive improvements in order to have qualified for NCAAs this season.
Sophomore Isabella Marten placed seventh in the women’s triple jump. Her best mark was 13.10 meters, which is a little less than her seed mark and best distance of 13.26 meters which she jumped at the MPSF Championships two weeks ago. Her longest jump of the day was her last, which is a testament to her focus and endurance throughout the competition.
Marten transferred from Southern Methodist University this year, so this was the first time she represented the Bears at a nationwide competition.
Last up for the Bears was sophomore Bethan Knights, who ran the 3,000-meter race Saturday. She finished the race in ninth place in 9:09.79, almost exactly one second slower than her time at MPSF. Notre Dame’s Molly Seidel won the race with an impressive time of 8:57.86, more than seven seconds faster than any other finisher.
“The national meets are very different from the local meets because you are competing against tough competition from all over the country,” said Cal track and field director Tony Sandoval.
At that high level of competition, there is a huge amount of pressure placed on every athlete, especially because most events are single flight or finals-only.
The overall team winners of the competition were both Oregon’s men’s and women’s teams. The Ducks did especially well on the men’s side, finishing with a team score of 62.0, while runner-up Arkansas had only 39.0 points.
Although Simon, Knights and Marten all fell slightly short of their qualifying marks for the championships, as sophomores, all three of the athletes have two more years to qualify and improve their results at the NCAAs. For the time being, the Bears can be proud that they went from qualifying zero athletes for NCAAs to three. Now that qualifying is within its grasp, Cal will strive to send more and more athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships each year.
“I am very happy with the way the meet turned out,” Sandoval said. “For the next few weeks, we will be giving the athletes who competed in NCAAs time to recover.”
At the end of a successful indoor season, the Bears will now turn their focus to upcoming scored outdoor meets within the Pac-12.