Less than a month ago, the Bears began their season in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invite. It was a strong beginning, speckled with individual wins and high marks, but the stakes were low.
Now, with only four meets left in the indoor season, the Bears will return to Albuquerque to compete under the desert sun at the Don Kirby Invitational. The heat has been turned up: It’s now or never for the Bears yearning to post high marks before the Pac-12 Invitational.
Seniors Camryn Rogers and Josh Johnson’s domination in the throwing ring is practically old news. Both recorded a first-place finish and a stadium record at the WSU Invitational in weight throw and shot put, respectively. But as the season progresses, it’s time for some of the other Bears to step out from beneath Rogers and Johnson’s shadow.
Last weekend in the men’s shot put, Jeff Duensing recorded 18.13m, and Iffy Joyner recorded 17.95m, good for third and fourth place respectively. The Don Kirby Invitational will provide an opportunity for Duensing and Joyner to edge closer to Johnson.
In the women’s weight throw, Rebecca Tomann and Anna Purchase earned seventh and eighth place, respectively. While their throws land nearly 5 meters behind Rogers’, that doesn’t mean the Bears can’t focus on their own individual improvement as they head back to Albuquerque.
Early in the season, Mason Mangum stepped foot in Albuquerque and earned first place in the men’s long jump. Following a win at the WSU Invitational, another strong performance in New Mexico seems likely. Kamau Carlisle is another jumper to watch — he actually posted better marks than Mangum in Spokane but competed in the WSU Open, where there was a higher performing field than at the WSU Invitational.
Cal fans should also keep an eye on triple jumper Asha Fletcher, who took home two wins last weekend in the open long jump and the triple jump final.
If the 2022 season can be likened to a race, then it’s fair to say that the Bears’ sprinting corps has shot out of its starting blocks and is transitioning from its drive phase with grace.
Freshman David Foster turned heads with a 6.77-second 60-meter dash at the WSU Invitational, a time that put him second on Cal’s All-Time list. Fellow underclassman Jazlynn Shearer has been equally impressive in the 60-meter hurdles; last weekend, Shearer set a stadium record at Washington State’s new home of indoor track — known as The Podium — when she blitzed to the finish in 8.44 seconds.
The Bears’ upperclassmen haven’t been slacking, either. Senior Ezinne Abba moved up to eighth on Cal’s All-Time list for the 200-meter dash with a PR of 24.52 seconds in Spokane. At the Don Kirby Invitational, the blue and gold’s sprinters will continue driving as their heads rise, their eyes locking in on the approaching Pac-12 Invitational at the end of February.
The track season has begun only in modest for the Bears’ distance crew.
None of its members competed at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invite on Jan. 22. While several competed at Cal’s All-Comers Meet on Jan. 29, that was more of a dress rehearsal than anything else. And only three of its runners — Mina Anglero, Claire Yerby and Garrett MacQuiddy — competed at Washington State.
This weekend gives the distance group another opportunity to get its racing legs under itself.
Cal track and field is on its way to Albuquerque for the second time this season. With the indoor season drawing nearer to its climax, there will be more pressure on the Bears to put up high marks. With as impressive as their performance has been in recent weeks, there’s no doubt that the blue and gold are up to the challenge.