Sports possess a unique ability to elicit both our greatest and worst moments. A study in contrast, the sheer unpredictability of competition can take us to the highest of highs in one moment and submerge to the lowest of lows in the next. Perhaps this is what makes sports so entertaining. We gamble everything. Whether we play or watch, we put our emotions on the line and, invariably, start blaming the referees.
Cal’s participation in last weekend’s Pac-12 Multi-Events Championships at Arizona’s Roy P. Drachman Stadium was the embodiment of this contrast between success and failure.
Hakim McMorris, who has taken the country by storm with his stellar performances so far this season, put an exclamation mark on what has been a notable freshman campaign, finishing in second place in the decathlon event behind standout Oregon freshman Max Vollmer, who recorded the third-best mark in the nation.
McMorris recorded personal bests in six of the 10 events, winning the high jump and 110-meter hurdles en route to a personal best at the decathlon of 7,259 points. He scored well in two critical events, the pole vault and the 110-meter hurdles, bolstering his performance.
The freshman still struggled at the javelin throw, where he scored his lowest point total. McMorris, whose strengths lie in the speed-based events such as the 100 meter dash or long jump, must improve his throwing and vaulting, but that should not detract from his accomplishment.
McMorris entered the meet with the simple goal of bettering his personal best, and after improving that mark by 100 points, it is safe to say that goal has been achieved.
Should his ranking hold, McMorris’ 7,259-point decathlon tally, which ranks 23rd nationally, would see him qualify for the NCAA Track & Field Championships. His score also gives the Bears 8 points at the Pac-12 Championships, sending the rest of the Cal team into this upcoming championship weekend with an advantage.
But no story is complete without the contrast. After overcoming injury for a surprisingly successful indoor season, redshirt junior Tyler Brendel saw his outdoor season come to a shocking halt when he no-heighted in the high jump.
Brendel had a nagging heel injury that ultimately determined the course of the meet, and he will be bitterly disappointed after watching what could have been a promising postseason slip through his fingers.
Brendel finished 14th in the indoor heptathlon at the NCAA Indoor Championships earlier this season and garnered second-team All-America status, but the athlete from Granite Bay, California left the 2019 outdoor season frustrated.
This is the second decathlon Brendel has been unable to finish — he also recorded a no-height at the Bryan Clay Invitational earlier this season. Had Brendel merely equaled his personal best, he would have easily supplanted teammate McMorris for second in Arizona and easily qualified for the upcoming NCAA Championships. Through his first three events, Brendel was on track to rank 19th in the nation.
Had Brendel completed the decathlon with such a score, he would have likely pushed Cal into first place heading into this weekend. No one, however, will be more disappointed than the redshirt junior, whose struggles with injury have defined much of the past year. Brendel still has a year of eligibility, and it remains to be seen whether he will continue to compete for the Bears next season.
The rest of Cal’s track and field athletes will follow in their teammates’ footsteps to the Roy P. Drachman Stadium this weekend to compete in the Pac-12 Championships, ready to capitalize on the valuable points afforded to them by McMorris’ stellar finish.
The contrast between elation and frustration will surely weigh heavily on the competitors ahead of the meet. The line between success and failure is one that must be trod carefully. There is no script. What remains is jubilation, sorrow and everything in between.
The Pac-12 Championships kick off Saturday at 5 p.m.