Cal track and field struggles at electric Pac-12 Championships

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Championships provide an electric atmosphere. The tension and focus that are produced at the culmination of a season are felt by spectators and athletes alike.

The 2019 Pac-12 Track & Field Championships were no different, as the weather turned literally electric when thunderstorms halted events for several hours at Arizona’s Roy P. Drachman Stadium.

Camryn Rogers was Cal’s standout Sunday, out-throwing Arizona State’s Beatrice Llano and UCLA’s Alyssa Wilson, the top two hammer throwers in the country, en route to an individual conference championship.

The Canadian opened the event with a bang, throwing 68.99 meters and breaking the school record she had set earlier this season. None of Rogers’ competitors came close to that mark, and Rogers was far from finished. In her second throw, the sophomore surpassed 69 meters for the first time in her career, breaking the Canadian under-23 record.

Most would have called that a good day’s work, but four throws later, Rogers broke those same records. For the third time that afternoon, Rogers recorded a personal best, throwing 69.79 meters and taking the day from excellent to legendary.

Another exemplary finish came from Tuomas Kaukolahti, the only other Bear to win a Pac-12 title, repeating as triple jump champion. Paramveer Chohan set a personal record, coming from behind to claim critical points in the 400-meter hurdles.

The Bears were successful in many of Saturday’s preliminary races, advancing athletes to the final of every competition except for the men’s and women’s 400-meter and the men’s 100-meter dash. Cal’s 4-x-100 meter women’s relay team was one of Saturday evening’s standouts, finishing in third behind powerhouses USC and Oregon and putting up a top-50 time.

Despite the success in prelims, Cal’s men failed to capitalize on the eight points freshman Hakim McMorris had given the team in the previous weekend’s decathlon.

Saturday saw Silviu Bocancea take second in the hammer throw. However, Takeshi Okada, whose personal best would have seen him take second at the Pac-12 Championships, did not start the 3000-meter steeplechase.

All three Cal shot-putters underperformed, as Malik McMorris, Iffy Joyner and Joshua Johnson all failed to break their personal bests. Johnson was the only Bear to finish in the top eight, scoring two points with a seventh-place finish.

Chrissy Glasmann and Annie Boos placed in the top eight in the javelin and 3000-meter steeplechase, respectively, but both failed to record a personal best. Saturday evening ended with the Bears’ men in sixth and the women in seventh overall, with both hoping for improvement on Sunday.

But it would not be a meet to remember for Cal. Multiple Bears finished behind their personal records and even behind their marks from the previous preliminary rounds. Cal recorded top-three finishes in only five events.

The men maintained their placing, finishing in sixth, while the women dropped to ninth. Many Cal athletes fell out of the regional top 48, a drop that removed them from the NCAA West Prelims. The challenges of the meet were clear.

Breakout star Zion Corrales Nelson ran the 4-x-100 meter relay, as well as the 100- and 200-meter dashes, totaling five races over two days. Many athletes were running several races over the weekend, and those who were running multiple events were exhausted. Each Cal athlete would return to an academically rigorous finals week.

The championships would be electric for others, as USC’s women astonished all, taking the top three spots in the 100-meter and 200-meter races as well as winning the 4-x-100 meter relay. Oregon nearly completed the same feat in the men’s competitions. USC’s Cameron Samuel and Earnie Sears III recorded the nation’s best marks in the 400-meter hurdles and high jump, respectively.

Against the Pac-12’s best, the Bears, for the most part, came up short. An relatively early finish to the school year will see individuals who made it to the NCAA West Prelims benefit from the ability to focus entirely on getting to the national championships, but many on Cal’s track and field team left Arizona empty-handed with their seasons coming to a close.

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