Cal track and field hopes to shine at NCAA Indoor Championships

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Just as Cal track and field’s outdoor season is kicking off, a few select individuals will be finishing off their indoor season at the NCAA Indoor National Championships.

Cal will be sending an impressive five athletes to compete against the best in the nation at NCAAs, which will take place this weekend at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. The path to nationals is a daunting one; only those who earn a top-16 national mark are invited to compete — a testament to just how talented Cal’s qualifiers truly are.

“It’s the elite of the elite,” said head coach Tony Sandoval. “Just the fact that you get here is very, very special.”

Representing the Bears will be seniors Bethan Knights and Ashtyn Davis, junior Lauren Martinez and sophomores Tuomas Kaukolahti and McKay Johnson.

For Knights and Davis, this will be their second and final time competing at the NCAAs, as well as the last indoor meet of their successful collegiate careers.

Day one of the meet will be headlined by the shot put and 5000-meter finals. Johnson will come in seeded No. 10 in a very competitive field of throwers, while Knights will be seeded No. 14 in the 5-kilometer. Despite their low rankings, Cal’s coaching staff still has the utmost confidence in its athletes.

Davis will also be competing in the 60-meter hurdle prelims on day one. This race will be critical for Davis as the only the top six will advance to the finals on day two. Cal’s star hurdler comes in seeded No. 10, but don’t let that low seed fool you, as Davis is in spitting distance of the fifth seed — only .03 seconds away.

While the final two through six spots will be tightly contested in the 60-meter hurdle, expect Florida sophomore Grant Holloway to run away with the race for his second consecutive NCAA title. Holloway’s mark of 7.42 seconds is miles ahead of the field, with the distance between No. 1 and No. 2  being larger than the No. 2 and No. 16.

“I think that no matter what ends up happening, if you take the approach that you give each competition your very best, there’s always something to learn from it,” Sandoval said. “I know that Ashtyn will have other opportunities down the road, whether it be track or football, so this is just another stepping stone for him in his career.”

Day two will be just as exciting for Cal, as both Kaukolahti and Martinez will be making their championship debuts in the triple jump and pole vault, respectively. The two Bears are coming off season PRs from MPSF and will be sure to build on their success at nationals.

Cal will have a tough meet ahead of them, competing with the best in the NCAA. That being said, elite competition can bring out the best in anyone.

“In all my years of watching, there have been some unknowns that win the NCAA title. At the same time there have been prohibitive favorites that blow up. It’s track and field’s version of March Madness — anything can happen,” Sandoval said.

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