As the popular saying goes, the third time’s the charm. While this saying might not exactly fit the progress of Cal track and field thus far, as the Bears enter their second outing of the season, it can perhaps be modified to second time’s the charm. Cal will return to New Mexico and Washington again this weekend, hoping for better results to build off their performances from Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
Cal is set to compete at the Don Kirby Elite Invitational in Albuquerque and the Husky Classic in Seattle. The team will split up just like last time and send the distance runners to the Husky Classic on Friday and Saturday, while the rest of the team competes in Albuquerque on Thursday and Friday.
After dominating at the New Mexico Team Open, Cal’s throwing team is hoping to carry the momentum to Don Kirby. All eyes are on the team’s experienced throwers, including redshirt junior McKay Johnson, junior Joshua Johnson and junior Iffy Joyner.
Assistant throws coach Mohamad Saatara explained that the team is flying out to New Mexico a day early to practice on specific throwing circles; these will be the same as the ones used for the NCAA Indoor Championships in March. The circles used in Albuquerque are different from the ones used in Washington in terms of their foundations, so the team prioritized gaining experience over sticking together.
“We decided the most important competition is the NCAA championships. Coach Johnson supported us in getting as much experience as we can on the circle that’s going to be used for nationals,” Saatara said.
The weekend will also feature the U.S. National Championships in a nearby event center in Albuquerque. This event will draw tougher competition, and some of the athletes competing at nationals will also be competing at the Don Kirby Invitational.
“At the meet in Albuquerque you’re going to get a little bit better turnout in terms of the talent coming out to compete,” Saatara said.
Meanwhile, a few states away, Cal’s distance team will face some of the best distance athletes in the country.
“This is one of the bigger, if not the biggest collegiate distance events in the country,” said Cal head distance coach Bobby Lockhart.
Although the track they’ll race will also hold the Mount Pacific Sports Federation Championships on Feb. 28-29, it didn’t factor into the Bears’ decision about attending this invite. The main draw of the Husky Classic is the competition there, which will give the Bears another opportunity to test themselves and their progress.
The UW Invitational two weeks ago was Lockhart’s first indoor meet as a coach for Cal. He finished the 2019 cross country season with the Bears and helped transition the distance runners from cross country to track.
“Last time at Washington was our season opener. We didn’t know what to expect, but we went in with very few workouts under our belt and performed well. We walked away from that meet having accomplished a lot,” Lockhart said.
Because track has such a long season, athletes will peak at different races and end their season at different times. Lockhart keeps this in mind when planning his training schedule.
“This part of the year is about balancing how much aerobic work we want to do and how much faster stuff we want to get under our belts, all with intentions to run fast outdoors. It’s a combination of continuing to work on our base building and getting a little bit of turnover,” Lockhart said.
As preparation for the invitationals come to a close, the Bears keep in mind that this weekend isn’t the last time they’ll be competing in New Mexico and Washington.
The Bears have a long season ahead of them and many more meets to go before the finish line – but maybe, just maybe — the second time will charm Cal track & field.
Mia Horne covers cross country. Contact her at [email protected].