Last chance for success: Cal targets experience, improvement

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“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

So states Murphy’s law, a common phrase positing that life can be, and usually is, crazy. Plans come unraveled. Certainties can hit the fan.

The point is that unexpected events will occur; though, for Cal track and field, the unexpected was an event not occurring.

The Bears were primed for another trip to Dempsey Indoor for the Husky Classic before a snowstorm hit Seattle, forcing the meet to compress itself into one day and making it nearly impossible for Cal athletes to make it on time.

“Canceling was basically a safety issue,” said head coach Tony Sandoval.

Worries about transportation, as well as the fact that most of the meet would be over by the time Cal arrived, dissuaded Sandoval and his staff from taking the trip up the coast.

The goals of this weekend’s Last Chance College Elite Meet, also at Dempsey Indoor, reflect the circumstances that the Bears now face.

Cal track and field needs to participate in at least three meets in its indoor season to compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships in early March. The team will compete at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, or MPSF, Championships later this month, but, like a student fulfilling major requirements, the Bears will squeeze in this third meet to qualify for national championships.

“This’ll be a pretty low-key affair,” Sandoval said. Many of the athletes competing from both Cal and other local schools will simply be seeking to improve their qualifying times for the MPSF Championships.

The Last Chance College Elite Meet will also provide a chance for first-time athletes to get their feet wet. Several freshmen who were slated to make their college debut at the Husky Classic will instead open their seasons at the Last Chance meet.

“We do not want them going to the MPSF (Championships) with no competition whatsoever,” Sandoval said. “It’s their first meet. I don’t see them being NCAA level this year, but they need to get some experience.”

This meet will provide a chance for Cal athletes to learn and compete in a low-pressure situation. Remember Murphy’s law? Better that mistakes are made this weekend rather than at the MPSF Championships.

Twenty-eight athletes will make the journey north, most of them representing a sprinters team that showed real potential in its first meet and a distance team that, in contrast, has a lot of work to do.

Distance, in particular, faces disadvantages in its competition for a higher seeding. Its events are scored by comparing times to all other runners, but each athlete only runs against a few of their competitors in their particular heats.

This means that even if they win their heat, they can still place behind other, faster, heats — “The younger people are kind of in a double whammy; they need experience but they’re not good enough to get into a good heat,” Sandoval said.

In addition, Dempsey Indoor has sharp turns for an indoor track, making longer races difficult and slowing runners as they change direction. Many other top-tier schools compete at Dempsey Indoor, though. Rivals Washington and Stanford, among others, have put up top times in multiple events at the venue, despite its apparent shortcomings. Cal’s distance team has gotten off to a slow start, but success is not impossible.

Things rarely go the way we plan it — “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Adversity and misfortune are commonplace, but that doesn’t mean one cannot triumph. It falls to the Bears to make the most of their opportunities.

Jasper Sundeen covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected].