Juniors Bethan Knights, Peter Simon and Ashley Anderson left Austin, Texas, on Saturday with a golden ticket punched and primed for next week’s NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon. But for the 23 other Cal track and field athletes who competed in the NCAA West Regionals this past weekend, their seasons have come to an end.
Knights was the first Bear to clinch a national bid, taking seventh in the 10,000-meter run with a time of 34:41.74. This meet was only the third time in the entire season that she competed in this event, meaning she likely had far less meet experience than her fellow long distance runners.
A lack in quantity of races did not breed a lack of quality in performance from the junior. The 10,000-meter run did not require a preliminary round, meaning Knights’ fate was sealed early on in the tournament, but her teammates would have to push on for another two days of competition before determining their futures.
Simon was the next Cal competitor to advance to Eugene, finishing sixth in the shot put with a mark of 18.91 meters. While the throw was not the longest of his career, it earned him the highest place of any Bear at the West Regionals. By Friday afternoon, Simon’s worries were over and he was headed for the his second NCAA outdoor nationals.
The last qualification for the Bears came from triple jumper Anderson, who took eighth in the event with a distance of 13.20 meters. Anderson not only qualified for her second outdoor NCAA championships, but she recorded a career-best mark in the process.
She added about five inches to her jump from the Pac-12 championships two weeks prior. Before the West Regionals, Anderson set a career-best mark at the Pac-12 championships as well, marking back-to-back meets with a personal record.
The rest of the Bears weren’t jumping for joy at the tournament and 23 Cal athletes missed the advancing mark of top 12. Some of the weekend’s toughest blows came from 13th-place finishers junior Ashtyn Davis and senior Ilse Kaaja. So close, yet so far.
Davis was a favorite in the 110-meter hurdle event, finishing fourth overall in the preliminary round Friday. Come finals Saturday, Davis could not match his prelim time of 13.67 seconds and finished 13th with a time of 13.99 – .13 seconds behind 12th place. Davis also ended his season-long undefeated record, finishing the season 7-1.
Kaaja missed 12th spot by a mere two inches in the hammer throw, finished her career as a Bear just short of making an appearance in the promised land.
The athletes that qualified for West Regionals, but fell short in their pursuit of nationals can still be proud of earning a top-48 ranking in the nation. For the qualifying three, they will take their talents to Oregon in hopes of earning the highest accolades in college track and field.
Christie Aguilar is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].