Cal track and field pops off in the first outdoor meet of the season

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After a week of scattered showers, no one was more on edge than Cal track and field head coach Tony Sandoval.

“To be honest with you, early on we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Sandoval said. “The weather forecast, you know — you didn’t know what was going to end up happening. … There was a time, twice in the early portion, where we had some hail, and I’m going ‘What are we going to do here?’ ”

Fortunately for the Bears, the only thing raining at the annual California Outdoor Opener was Cal’s 16 first-place finishes. The Bears dominated throughout the meet, with the women sweeping both UC Davis and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the men knocking off the Mustangs.

“It was cold; it was windy,” Sandoval said. “That puts a hamper on lot of the marks. What I did see is a lot of enthusiasm and some grit and some hard work.”

Both the men and women kicked off the meet by claiming first-place finishes in the hammer throw. To say the women just got “first,” however, is a vast undersell for freshman Camryn Rogers.

In her first hammer throw of the season, Rogers set yet another freshman record with a throw of 204 feet and 6 inches. Rogers’ first record came last week in the shot put at the MPSF Indoor Championships.

Rogers isn’t just a promising freshman for Cal — she’s already elite. Coming off a laundry list of impressive showings on the international stage before her time as a Bear, Rogers is in line to have a very successful career at Cal, and she’s wasting no time doing it.

Behind Rogers, the women swept the hammer throw and would go on to win every throwing event.

The women finished first and second place in every throwing event while claiming a clean one-through-three sweep in the hammer and discus. Cal’s men followed suit sweeping the discus and the shot, as well as taking first in the hammer.

Even with all these outstanding performances, Cal was missing five of its top performers because of next week’s NCAA Indoor Championships. Seniors Bethan Knights and Ashtyn Davis, junior Lauren Martinez and sophomores Tuomas Kaukolahti and McKay Johnson, who will be representing Cal next week at Texas, missed the meet.

“You have five of our athletes that we don’t use because they’re going on to NCAAs, and so it makes a difference,” Sandoval said. “There were some events where we only had one person or two people here and there. Because (of) the weather, we also weren’t going to take risks on people who are on the edge physically.”

In addition to these five, many of the Bears’ top distance runners received extra rest between the indoor and outdoor seasons and did not participate this weekend.

“Well those people, the distance kids, they ran pretty hard indoors. And this is a time, in March, to go back and rebuild in a sense. So some of those top people we didn’t compete,” Sandoval said.

With bad weather and a host of inactive athletes, it was the perfect storm for the Bears to fold Saturday, but Cal showed that it had the depth to still remain competitive.

“Well I don’t know — it was just one thing after another,” said Sandoval. “Just the fact that we were able to get the whole meet together and people competed well is a highlight for me.”

Cal has a long outdoor season ahead of them, and when they finally hit full strength, expect the storm to keep coming.

Harshil Desai covers track & field. Contact him at [email protected].