Cal track and field sends 17 athletes to NCAA West Regionals

photo of UC Berkeley track & field athlete
William Webster/Staff

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The school year has ended (in what feels like the blink of an eye), and many students are taking a well-deserved break after a grueling week of finals. Some students are starting classes again, while others are enjoying their summer vacation free from coursework and stress.

Amid all of the summer activities that Cal students are currently occupied with, the track and field season is still going strong. The Bears have yet to receive a recess from the spring semester as they prepare for the upcoming NCAA West Regionals in College Station, Texas from May 26-29.

Individually, seven men and 10 women from Cal qualified for the preliminary round of the NCAA championships. On top of individual qualifiers, the women’s 4 x 100 meter relay team is also eligible.

Nearly half of Cal’s qualifying athletes are throwers, including four from the men’s team and four from the women’s. With the team’s strong presence at regionals and the accomplishments of reigning Pac-12 champion Camryn Rogers, it’s clear that the Bears’ throwing squad has gained momentum in recent years.

The blue and gold’s throws coach Mohamad Saatara has been working diligently with his team to prepare for regionals. Saatara knows the stakes are high and that many details out of his athletes’ control, including the number of participants and weather, may affect their performances.

“We’re working on getting used to the longer flights — the flights are bigger, so there’s more of a wait time in between each one,” Saatara said. “We adapted our training and also are preparing for different weather: the cold, wind, rain, whatever happens.”

In order to qualify for the NCAA championships, contenders must place in the top 12 at regionals. In order to do so, they must outcompete 48 other skillful participants in each event.

The top 12 from the Western Regional will join the top 12 from the Eastern Regional in Eugene, Oregon at the NCAA Outdoor Championships on June 9-12.

For the Bears, making up for the inexperience of their younger stars requires constant hard work and rigorous preparation.

“The biggest challenge is having enough experience,” Saatara said. “This invitational (regionals) is very big, so you need to have experience. Being able to manage your time spent on warmups, the logistics and preparation all require experience. This creates a big challenge for younger athletes.”

Freshman Garrett MacQuiddy is among the younger athletes who will represent Cal in Texas. He qualified in the 800 and 1500 meters and will be racing against many seasoned competitors with more years of competition experience than him. However, MacQuiddy’s inexperience has never been a predictor of his success; the freshman already has four first-place finishes in his very first season.

The Bears have managed to send a formidable number of athletes to the NCAA West Regionals despite the hardships the pandemic has created for them. According to Saatara, Cal’s ability to train at a high level and face other competitive universities during an uncertain time is a testament to the true strength of the team.

“Our group is pretty special, they have talent and experience and they’re all very motivated and focused,” Saatara said. “It’s been very challenging to make it through a season with all the various obstacles we faced, especially when a few months ago we thought we wouldn’t even have a season.”

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