The Cal track and field teams were coming off a restful spring break as they ventured to the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Team Challenge hosted by Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona. The meet contained some of the most intense competition that most of the Bears have faced yet this season. Not only were the usual suspects from the Pac-12 present, but teams with traditionally strong track programs from the Big Ten also competed.
The meet pitted four Pac-12 teams, Cal, Arizona, Arizona State and Washington, against four Big Ten teams, Penn State, Michigan, Indiana and Nebraska. Normally the Bears’ opponents, the three other Pac-12 teams became Cal’s teammates throughout the events.
Starting weeks ago, track and field director Tony Sandoval stressed the importance of this meet. Because of this, most Cal athletes stayed back from the meet at Sacramento State last weekend to continue to rest and prepare.
The Bears started out strong Friday with both the men’s and women’s teams taking first and second place positions in the 5,000-meter run. Junior Trent Brendel finished first with a time of 14:29.22 and senior Chris Walden was the runner-up with a time of 14:30.74. On the women’s side, freshman Marissa Williams also won, running the 5,000 meters in 16:25.52, followed by senior Sydney Gray who finished almost 15 seconds later.
Another notable performance Friday, which was mostly reserved for throwing events, came from senior Isaac Dan. Dan placed third in the men’s hammer throw with a distance of 64.26 meters, not far behind two Big Ten athletes from Nebraska and Michigan.
The bulk of the events, however, took place Saturday.
Another parallel finish for Cal came in the 100-meter dash, where the Bears finished second in both races, behind runners from Nebraska. Junior Khalfani Muhammad sprinted the 100 meters in 10.52 seconds, and junior Jayla Scholis finished in 11.91 seconds.
Following another Nebraska athlete, freshman Connor Meech placed second in the 400-meter hurdles, running and jumping his way to the finish line in 53.59 seconds.
Freshman Rebecca Croft won the women’s 800-meter race with a time of 2:07.25, and the women’s 4×400-meter relay came in second, finishing the race in 3:44.03.
The three athletes that competed in the NCAA Indoor Championships had strong performances. Sophomore Bethan Knights came in second in the 1,500-meter run, sophomore Peter Simon won the men’s shot put and sophomore Isabella Marten placed second in the triple jump.
“There were also multiple athletes that placed in Cal’s all time top 10 list this weekend,” Sandoval said.
Those making the impressive lists included junior Eugene Hamilton who placed third in the 800-meter run at the meet and Simon who is in the top ten on the all time list for men’s shot put. Freshmen Lauren Martinez and Rebecca Croft made the list for pole vault and the 800-meter run, respectively.
The results at the Team Challenge were not unusual for the Bears. Cal athletes who usually place highly at the meets, continued to do so. No one unlikely had a particularly bad performance. In fact, the Bears produced the most impressive performances of the Pac-12 team, although that was not quite enough.
All of the Pac-12 teams had a hard time outscoring the competitive Big Ten teams, especially Nebraska. Ultimately, the Pac-12 fell to the Big Ten, 391-298, but not without putting up a fight.
Lucy Schaefer covers track and field. Contact her at [email protected]