No room for error as Bears head to NCAA West Prelims

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Recall the defining moments in your life: the crossroads from which you could not return, where one decision, one action, would invariably change the course of your history.

Cal track and field is plunging into such a situation, with 24 athletes journeying north for the NCAA West Preliminary Round at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium.

The margin for error is slim. This weekend’s competitors will have the narrowest of windows to get it right and advance to the upcoming NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas.

This weekend will consist of preliminary and quarterfinal rounds that will determine the 12 short-distance track athletes moving on to Austin. In the long-distance races, however, there will be only one race per event, meaning only one opportunity to advance to the championships.

Field athletes will have three chances to snatch a coveted top-12 spot, contrary to the standard six throws or jumps at a meet during the regular season. This could mean chaos and create opportunities for lower seeds as well as spell disaster for the top-ranked athletes. Several Bears will enter the preliminary round with high hopes.

Camryn Rogers is third in the nation in the hammer throw, and after defeating Arizona State’s Beatrice Llano and UCLA’s Alyssa Wilson, ranked first and second, two weeks ago en route to a Pac-12 championship, she should have the confidence to come out on top again.

Tuomas Kaukolahti is coming off back-to-back Pac-12 championships in the triple jump and, barring catastrophe, should easily be able to leap past his competition and on into Austin.

Cal’s throws team lost All-American McKay Johnson to injury earlier this season, but hammer thrower Silviu Bocancea should carry what has been an outstanding senior season into the national championships, and Iffy Joyner should do the same in the discus.

The Bears have had an excellent season in the men’s hurdles as well. Jasher Foster and Misana Viltz are both likely to progress from the preliminary heats of the 110-meter hurdles and into the NCAA West’s quarterfinals, but it may be too big of a task for each to move on.

400-meter hurdler Paramveer Chohan, who just won the Cal men’s team’s Most Outstanding Track Athlete, has a chance to win his preliminary heat and has the ability to advance to the NCAA national championships.

Foster, like fellow track athlete Zion Corrales Nelson, will face the difficulty of competing in multiple events, running both the 110- and 400-meter hurdles. Corrales Nelson, Cal women’s Most Outstanding Track Athlete, will also be be representing the Bears in the 4-x-100 meter relay, as well as the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

With no room for error, seasons will be made and lost in Sacramento. Until the favorites have punched their tickets to the NCAA national championships, the underdogs will be relishing their opportunity until the very last second.

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