Return of track and field: Bears set to compete at Air Force Invitational

Photo of a Track Meet
Karen Chow/File

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The year 2020 is finally over. And while we’re still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and battling other challenges 2020 brought, there is hope in the form of many things: a vaccine, a new president and the return of Cal track and field. Other sports such as football and basketball have had their time to shine — now a new sport steals the spotlight.

With the release of Cal track and field’s 2021 indoor schedule, some of the uncertainty that’s surrounded the spring season since last March has been resolved. Working in small cohorts and staying motivated throughout all the unknown, the Bears have trained together since September 2020 in preparation for the possibility of a season.

The blue and gold will travel to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to compete in the Air Force Invitational on Jan. 22 and 23. The Bears’ talents will finally be on display, and this meet will serve as the first benchmark of their ability since the Cal Opener in spring 2020.

Officials for Cal Athletics made the decision to compete at the Air Force Academy in part due to the rigorous testing and social distancing procedures the school has in place. Attending multiple indoor meets at the same location is not unusual for the Bears. During the last indoor season, they competed at the University of New Mexico indoor track twice.

“The university and athletic department are very concerned with how people are testing, and we’re pretty confident in the military’s ability to test as much as we are or even more, so we feel comfortable there,” said Cal track and field head coach Robyne Johnson.

Johnson has remained optimistic about the possibility of a season and is glad the team will have a chance to showcase all its hard work. The blue and gold’s indoor season schedule was released Jan. 19, meaning the team has had to train to the best of its abilities since early fall 2020, with no scheduled invitational to look forward to until recently.

“Training’s been going really well,” Johnson said. “We started in September for an indoor season. We weren’t sure what was going to happen, so the kids are very excited and can’t wait to get somewhat back into the groove of things.”

The Bears practice daily at Edwards Stadium, giving them plenty of room to work with their individual groups in an outdoor setting. This ensures the team’s safety and ability to continue to train in person with some of the resources it would have during a regular non-pandemic season.

This season will look different from the last full one in many ways — such as a schedule that’s subject to change and protocols in place to enforce social distancing — but one thing that remains constant is Cal’s commitment to training hard and staying motivated.

“Our kids are extremely competitive. I know that they’re highly motivated and understand this is unprecedented and they’re very fortunate to have this opportunity to compete. I really look forward to seeing some quality performances,” Johnson said.

After the first Air Force Invitational, Cal will return to Colorado Springs on Feb. 19 to compete in a second invitational at the same indoor track. The Bears’ indoor schedule leaves room for a possible third competition at a later date before the NCAA indoor championships take place March 12-13. The year 2021 is just getting started, and so is Cal track and field.

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