That track-meet feeling: All Comers Meet 2 sends Cal into Pac-12 Invitational

Photo of Cal Track and Field runners sprinting
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

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There’s something special about a track meet: the intermittent jolt of the starting gun. Jittery athletes warming up with routine drills. Fans coming and going from the bleachers. The tears shed at the finish lines.

The All Comers Meet 2 held at Edwards Stadium last Saturday surely captured that special track-meet feeling. For those in attendance, it might have felt like the start of spring.

And it might as well have been. The Bears have just one indoor meet left before kicking off the outdoor season: the Pac-12 Invitational on Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 in Seattle, Washington. Saturday’s All Comers Meet 2 was a friendly send-off before they head to the high-stakes meet up north.

Only a handful of Cal athletes competed in Saturday’s meet, while most used the opportunity to soak in the sun and rest their legs.

The field was mostly community members and high school students from surrounding regions. From their drive and focus, one might have mistaken some of the high schoolers for Cal athletes who’d forgotten their blue and gold uniform.

One of the many high school students was Chika Nwachukwu from Silver Creek High School in San Jose, who competed in the mixed 60-meter hurdles and the mixed 200 meters. For Nwachukwu, who hopes to someday race collegiately, the All Comers Meet 2 was less about catching the eye of Cal coaches and more about having fun racing alongside college students.

“I would say (my goals) are to beat my personal best times, but overall just to have fun,” Nwachukwu said. “The last Berkeley meet, I actually did get to compete with the collegiate athletes, and it was pretty fun.”

As the day wore on and the sun started to dip below the west bleachers, three members of Cal’s distance corps — Kalinda Reynolds, Sara Osterberg and Lauren Calcagno — could be found hanging out and relaxing in the stands. While none of them competed, they seemed at home in the track-meet atmosphere.

“There’s just something that’s so special about a track meet, it’s a lot of fun to be able to see every part of the team, not just distance,” Reynolds said.

One of the days’ highlights happened in the second-to-last event of the day, the mixed 3000-meter. Collegiate athletes from Cal and Saint Mary’s raced alongside high school athletes and community members for seven-and-a-half laps around the Edwards Stadium track.

Cal graduate student Meredith Corda came in third with a time of 9:53.35, followed closely by Saint Mary’s graduate student Hannah Wohlenberg, who came in at 9:55.06. When Wohlenberg saw a sub-10-minute time on the clock as she crossed the finish line, she was immediately overcome by emotion — gasping for air and hugging Corda through her tears. Several fans even rushed down to embrace Wohlenberg from across the fence separating the track from the bleachers.

“I ran 9:56 when I was a freshman, and I’m a sixth-year now. I’ve had years of really bad bone injuries. This is my second healthy track season I’ve gotten to have in college,” Wohlenberg said.

Running sub-10 minutes is a goal that has haunted her for years — and one that she accomplished last Saturday as she paced alongside Corda.

Even as a flurry of finishers raced through the finish line, there were many misty eyes fixed on Wohlenberg. For spectators, it’s these moments that make a long day sitting under the hot sun on uncomfortable bleacher seats worth it.

But these fleeting moments of track-meet magic won’t distract Cal from the task at hand. The conditions in Seattle won’t be nearly as friendly as they were on Saturday, as Cal lines up against top-tier talent. After solid showings and dozens of personal records within the past couple of weeks, the Bears are optimistic.

But with strong performances come strong expectations.

“Our kids are ready to go,” said Cal head coach Robyne Johnson. “We’re just anxious to get up there and see exactly where we stand.”

Sarah Siegel covers track and field. Contact her at [email protected].