Cal track and field builds toward better performances in Sacramento

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Everyone always focuses on winning. Remember applying to college? Remember applying to anything? Everything is always about doing better.

But what if I don’t want an internship in Silicon Valley? What if I just want to learn? What if I just want to improve?

Now, Division I track and field is a different animal than my summer plans — let’s be clear about that — but head coach Tony Sandoval expressed a similar sentiment when asked about Cal track and field’s performances at Friday and Saturday’s Hornet Invitational. The men’s team won outright, and the women’s finished second.

“Did we win the meet? I’m really worried about that,” Sandoval joked before becoming more serious. “We didn’t even know, to be honest with you — it’s not important at this point.”

The Hornet Invitational was all about improvement for the Bears. It came out to several long days in the Central Valley as Cal built up momentum for more important meets down the road.

“There were some surprises. We put some people in new events,” Sandoval said.

Rebecca Croft and Mina Anglero each ran two events. The senior, Croft, ran the 400-meter and 800-meter, while the Norwegian sophomore, Anglero, tried her hand at the 800-meter and 1,500-meter. Both athletes had to manage unusually long breaks between races while finishing in the top four in every event.

The two women highlighted a distance and mid-distance group that scored six top-three finishes in both men’s and women’s events. After a difficult indoor season, a strong showing is encouraging, even at a relatively uncompetitive meet.

“It didn’t make any difference,” Sandoval said. “We were running against the clock.”

The good times kept rolling for Cal. Freshman Hakim McMorris won his debut decathlon and logged the top mark in the NCAA. Sandoval seemed pleased with McMorris’s potential but preached the need to improve, specifically citing the pole vault.

“He went 12’6” in the pole vault, which isn’t very good, but he’s brand new,” Sandoval chuckled. “If he can end up this year, 14’ or 14’6”… he’s got a great future ahead of him.”

It would be the Bears’ 4×100 relay that would post the most exciting result of the weekend.

“Our women’s 4×1 showed that it could be a national qualifying team,” Sandoval said.

Deshae Wise, Zion Corrales Nelson, Maisie Stevens and Jackie Patterson recorded the fifth-fastest time in school history and put themselves in third in the western region, two spots behind powerhouse and rival USC.

The injury merry-go-round also continued to spin for the Bears — freshman Xavier Court returned to the track and ran 3,000 meters of the 5000-meter race for recovery purposes. On the other end of the spectrum, jumper Noelle Schiller tore her Achilles. Schiller’s injury will hurt the Bears, as what has been a good season thus far for the sophomore was brought to an abrupt end.

“It’ll be a long rehab. I anticipate her to be back. I’m not sure if it’ll be next year or beyond,” Sandoval said. “It’s a shame. We were penciling in her jumping 21 feet and making it to the big show.”

Still, results were encouraging — the Bears left Sacramento with seven individual wins.

“It was something we needed to do, and I’m pretty happy with it,” Sandoval summarized.

It would, however, be the last Hornet Invitational for the experienced track coach, who announced his intended retirement earlier this week after 37 years coaching at Cal.

The Bears will now shift to training as they prepare for the Stanford Invitational on March 29 and look to finish with a dominant season to send off Sandoval.

 

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