Underclassmen bring home wins at Cal Opener

josh kahen/Staff

The NCAA Indoor National Championships are next week, but for most college track and field athletes, attention is shifting. Now that the outdoor track season is here, athletes are focused on peaking at the right time and for the right invitational.

March 7 at the Cal Opener was a chance for the Bears to put their training to the test in a low-stakes environment. The heavy rain storm in the morning was the only obstacle in the way of an otherwise smooth invite, as Cal officially kicked off its outdoor season.

The underclassmen stepped up to the challenge the bad weather created, as five freshmen and sophomores took first place victories against UC Davis, the University of San Francisco, Santa Clara, Saint Mary’s and several running clubs.

The hammer throw was the first event to take place, despite the rain, which threatened to postpone the meet.

Freshman Jasmine Blair persevered through the storm and the mud, throwing a first-place hammer throw and later going on to take first place in the discus throw. Freshman Krissy Smoot continued the blue and gold’s dominance in throwing events, finishing first in the shot put event. These freshmen show promise for the future of a women’s throwing team that is already competing at a high level.

After a morning of downpour, the sun finally peeped through the clouds just in time for the start of the running events.

Underclassmen continued to have success. Sophomore Adam Saleh finished first and notched a new career best in the 100-meter finals, freshman DeAndra McDaniel took home a first-place win in the triple jump and sophomore Jessica Nye, a true walk-on, placed third in the competitive 1500-meter race.

Senior Zion Corrales Nelson was the exception to the underclassmen rule at the Opener, bringing her many years of experience to the 400-meter and relays.

“We all did our opposite events, so it was good to see where I’m at in the 400-meters. It helps me to see where I’m at in the 200. It was a good starter; I’m happy with it,” Nelson said.

Nelson placed first in the 400-meter, an event she doesn’t usually focus on. Many of Cal’s runners competed in events they don’t always compete in and mixed up their usual routine for training purposes.

Head distance coach Bobby Lockhart was pleased with the distance team’s performance. Over the next few weeks, runners will be switching up their training to include faster turnover workouts on the track.

“The transition has been good, going from indoor to outdoor. For now, we’re in a base-building phase to be ready for the end of the season,” Lockhart said.

Differences between the indoor and outdoor seasons include the length and shape of the track, changes in weather and changes in the kinds of meets the team competes in. Those changes are critical to athletes.

“Everything in indoors is different. I’m way more comfortable outdoors,” Nelson said. “Getting back into it is going to help the transition. In a month or so is when we’re going to start peaking, so it’s really important for this portion to get back into it and start working.”

The underclassmen will take the momentum they built at the opener into training over the next few weeks, preparing for bigger meets like the Stanford Invitational and the Mt. SAC Relays.

With such a long season and many more meets ahead, the Bears will stick to a regimented training schedule to make sure they peak in time for the most important invitationals.

“We take it pretty low-key until the last weekend in March, first weekend in April. The goal for that weekend, at least for our top athletes, will be to run a regional qualifying mark,” said assistant distance coach Chas Davis.

At the end of the day, the sun was out and shining, and the opener was the perfect introduction to outdoor season for the freshmen and sophomores on Cal’s team.

Mia Horne covers track and field. Contact her at [email protected].