Roads will diverge as Cal track and field compete in two different states this weekend.
Those in speed and power events head to Albuquerque, where they will compete at the New Mexico Team Open. The banked track will also host the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in March.
Distance will be in Seattle at the University of Washington Invitational, competing on the same track that will host the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Championships come the end of February. This track is flat, conducive to running faster in longer events.
Although the team will be in two different places, it still shares a common goal.
“We’ve been training since September, so we want to get a gauge of where we are in terms of competing for indoor spots. Indoor nationals is our goal and we’re trying to get athletes there,” said Robyne Johnson, director of Cal track and field.
These invites will be the first of the indoor season, and this is Robyne Johnson’s first season as director of Cal track and field. She was an assistant coach from 1995-2003 for the Bears, and grew up in Oakland. She returned to her hometown after directing Boston University’s track and field program for 14 years.
Robyne Johnson anticipates these meets will be a learning experience. The Bears have been training hard since September, but are not at the peak of their season quite yet. Track and field is a year-round endeavor, with training in the summer and fall, indoor competitions in the winter and outdoor events in the spring.
“We’re trying to slowly build up the peak, but not too early because it’s a long season,” Johnson said.
Off the top of her head, Johnson names several athletes she predicts to have strong performances this weekend, and junior McKay Johnson is one of them.
After recovering from an injury unrelated to track last year, Johnson is ready for this weekend.
“It feels good to be 100% healthy and back doing what I love to do. I feel better than ever and my weight room numbers are up, training feels good, overall just really enjoyed the fall training process,” he said.
Johnson is a skilled thrower, and this season is shaping up to be promising for him. Last season he finished eighth in the shot put at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
At the UW Invite last season, Johnson finished in first place with a mark of 19.73 meters. At the 2018 UW Invite, he finished second with a mark of 19.64 meters. If the trend continues, this year he could surpass previous records.
“Specifically for shot putting, the competition looks great this year and I’m excited to delve into it. It gets better and better every year and I’m excited to get to compete against these guys again,” McKay Johnson said.
Throwers on the team know that their results at this event provide a learning opportunity and basis for growth for the rest of the season.
“We’re going to go out there hoping to get a solid mark and use it as something we continue to build off of as the season progresses,” McKay Johnson said.
The Bears are divided between two states this weekend, but their focus remains stronger than ever.