Cal athletes race to qualify for Indoor Championships in 11th hour

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Cal’s indoor season can be compared to a ticking clock. Every time the minute hand moves, the Bears have less and less time to prove themselves. It’s the eleventh hour and the NCAA Indoor Championships are almost here.

Bears on the verge of qualifying for the indoor nationals have one last shot to do so, and it will happen just a state away in Seattle, Washington at the Mount Pacific Sports Federation, or MPSF, Championships on Friday and Saturday.

“All of our kids who are close (to qualifying) will be using this as an opportunity,” said Robyne Johnson, Cal’s track and field director. “I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of them compete who I haven’t seen thus far.”

Speaking of last shots, shot put star and junior McKay Johnson won’t need one, as he is ranked second in the nation and has already qualified for the Indoor Championships. He’ll be competing at the MPSF Championships to gain experience and support his team.

“He can still get better every weekend, so that’s what we shoot for,” Robyne Johnson said.

Junior from Clovis has already had a record-breaking season, earning a new indoor record for Cal in the shot put. His best throw of the season is only 0.2 meters away from No. 1 Adrian Piperi from Texas.

McKay Johnson isn’t the only throwing star on Cal’s team. Junior Joshua Johnson is ranked No. 18 in the country and will have to fight his way into the top 16 in Seattle to qualify for the Indoor Championships.

Junior Iffy Joyner might also have an outside chance if he can climb up from No. 34 to the top 16 at the MPSF Championships.

Throwers are dominating the 2020 season thus far for the blue and gold, but there are other athletes who stand out and have a chance at qualifying.

200-meter sprinter Zion Corrales Nelson will have to give her all this weekend to make it onto the leaderboard and qualify for the Indoor Championships. Nelson competed at the MPSF Championships during the last indoor season and placed in the top 10, and Cal’s coaching staff hope this experience will propel her to an even bigger win this time around.

The Bears’ distance team is already familiar with the site of their next competition. Every invite they’ve been to this season has taken place at the University of Washington’s Dempsey Indoor Center. But just because they are familiar with the locale does not mean they are familiar with the kind of pressure to qualify that they will face.

The distance medley could qualify if things go well for them this weekend, but Johnson and her fellow coaching staff have yet to decide who exactly will make up the relay team.

A distance relay team made up of junior Mina Anglero, freshman Lara Tortell, senior Jordyn Colter and junior Annie Boos is the most likely to participate based on past results. The mixed group of upper and lower classmen holds this season’s record for Cal with a time of 11:39.64.

Overall, Cal’s coaching staff is anticipating that this weekend will test what their athletes can do when put under real pressure. Competitors there will be from teams all over the country, some of them also hoping to qualify for the Indoor Championships.

As for the squads to watch, the Bears have their eyes on USC and Colorado.

“USC is always a strong team, as well as the University of Colorado. The events are so different that all events will be competitive, and there could be a different person who does well from a smaller school, bigger school — everybody, really,” Robyne Johnson said.

As Cal prepares for its weekend trip to Washington, the clock continues ticking, reminding the Bears that the MPSF Championships are their last chance to qualify for the biggest race of the indoor season.

Only time will tell if the Bears pull through before the clock strikes midnight.

Mia Horne covers cross country. Contact her at [email protected].