In the last five years, Cal has totaled a mere nine first-place finishes at the Pac-12 Championships. To put that into perspective, 2016 Pac-12 champion Oregon compiled 13 first place finishes in one meet. Cal’s history with this meet is underwhelming and by no means suggests the Bears will be a dominant force in the 2017 Pac-12 Championships this weekend.
But comparing Cal to Oregon is like comparing apples to oranges. Cal simply does not attract the nation’s top track athletes the way that the powerhouse Ducks do. On top of this, the Pac-12 has a history of being an extremely competitive conference in track and field, and this year is no exception.
The cream of the crop in Oregon (No. 2 in women’s, No. 7 in men’s) and USC (No. 3 in women’s, No. 8 in men’s) are likely to dominate this year’s tournament, but a look into Cal’s top competitors suggests that this could be their most successful meet in recent years.
Junior Ashtyn Davis will enter the meet with an undefeated record in the 110-meter hurdles. Davis has been exceptional throughout the entire season and will look to solidify his 2017 campaign with a championship title.
At last year’s Pac-12 championships, Davis’ shot at the title of fastest hurdler was diminished as he was outrun by Oregon’s then-sophomore Devon Allen by about half a second. A win in his event would give Davis a perfect season.
To earn the top spot on the podium, Davis must out-perform top-ranked USC junior Marquis Morris. Morris’s best time of 13.56 is .09 seconds faster than Davis’s 13.65.
Junior shot putter Peter Simon is another one of Cal’s best athletes, but a win in his event will be no walk in the park. Simon owns the thirteenth highest spot in the national rankings, but he will be competing against Arizona senior Aaron Castle and UCLA sophomore Dotun Ogundeji who own the ninth- and fifth-highest spots, respectively.
Pole vaulters sophomore Lauren Martinez and UCLA junior Elleyse Garrett are tied for No. 27 in the nation and are the only two Pac-12 pole vaulters ranked in the top 30. The vaulters share a personal best mark of 4.17 meters.
In the women’s triple jump, Cal and UCLA are also only two schools from the Pac-12 who have an athlete ranked in the top 30. Junior Ashley Anderson of Cal is 29th on the national leaderboards with a jump of 13.03 meters, but she trails UCLA junior Jessie Maduka, who is 19th on the national leaderboards with a jump of 13.13 meters.
Junior Bethan Knights has a considerable shot at taking the top spot on the podium in the 10,000-meter event. Knights has the seventh-best time in the 10 meter and stands as the sole representative of the Pac-12 in the top-25 rankings. Her time of 33:31.25 is less than half a second faster than Washington senior Kelsey Flanagan’s.
It will not be an easy bout for the Bears to capture multiple podium wins, but the team is completely capable of producing one of the winningest outings at the Pac-12 Championships in the past several years.
Christie Aguilar is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].