When you think of fast track and field events, you think of sprinters or even distance running. Throwing isn’t usually the first event that comes to mind, but the Cal track and field throwing team got off to a fast start this season and set a high bar for the rest of 2020.
Redshirt junior McKay Johnson’s indoor school record at the New Mexico Team Open started the Bears’ season off on a high note.
McKay Johnson finished first in the shot put event with a final mark of 20.63 meters, closely followed by junior Joshua Johnson, who placed third. Sophomore Iffy Joyner placed fifth, proving that good things do come in threes.
McKay Johnson is a two-time All-American and has been to the NCAA Indoor Championships the last two seasons. He holds all the records in shot put except for the school outdoor record — and although he hasn’t had a chance to compete outdoors since 2018, he is expected to break more records this outdoor season.
McKay attributes his success at this meet to his training and hard work over the past few months.
“I have more maturity in the circle, I’m understanding my body better, I have slightly better technique. I’m more explosive as well, and just excited to get back in there. It felt good to be back,” McKay Johnson said.
The New Mexico Team Open saw impressive competition, but because invites can be held all across the country on any given weekend, it’s rare to see all the top competition in one place. McKay Johnson won’t have a chance to compete against other national title contenders until March at the indoor championships, which will also be held in New Mexico.
“The hard thing with track is that the competition is always spread out,” McKay said. “Being able to get excited and pumped up in a meet where you might not have a full flight of 20-plus meter throwers is important.”
The throwers’ training schedule is carefully planned so that indoor nationals will be a culmination of all the hard work and preparation they’ve been doing to get ready for these invitationals. McKay’s success at the New Mexico Team Open is a good sign that he’ll find similar success at nationals.
Assistant throws coach Mohamad Saatara is looking forward to those indoor nationals, where he thinks several of the throwers on the team have a shot at doing well. Saatara is in his sixth season with Cal, and is excited about the possibilities 2020 brings.
“We have a nice group for the men’s shot put indoors, these guys are very experienced. Being an Olympic year, it’s going to be very competitive. The guys have been diligent, working very hard and pushing each other to start a good season, keep the energy going all year,” Saatara said.
The throwers weren’t the only event group with impressive performances over the weekend, as Cal’s distance athletes traveled to Seattle to compete in the University of Washington Invitational.
The women’s distance medley, made up of junior Mina Anglero, freshman Lara Tortell, redshirt senior Jordyn Colter and junior Annie Boos, finished fourth at the meet, but placed first in their section with a time of 11:39.64. Anglero is a familiar name from cross country in the fall, where she was the top runner for the women’s team in her first season running distance.
Sophomore Hakim McMorris placed first in the 60 meters and shot put in the heptathlon, despite a 10th place finish in the event. He continues to build on his record from last season, where he had several first-place finishes and competed at the Pac-12 Championships.
Graduate student Emma Lower placed second in the 600-meter and third in the 800-meter event in her Cal debut. Lower competed with Yale track and field during undergrad, and is seventh on Yale’s top-10 list of all time for the 800-meter. Lower will be a good addition to the distance team this year, bringing her experience at Yale to the West Coast.
The Bears return to New Mexico and Washington in two weeks for the Don Kirby Elite Invitational and the Husky Classic, continuing the indoor season and building on the momentum they gained this past weekend.
Mia Horne covers cross country. Contact her at [email protected].