The long awaited outdoor season has finally arrived. On Saturday, the Bears will be competing on their home track at the Cal Season Opener. The outdoor season brings on new challenges, including the elements, a bigger track and new events. However, the Bears have been eagerly waiting for this moment.
“We are an outdoor team and we will continue to get stronger as the outdoor season takes shape,” said assistant coach Dan Lefever. “We are going to continue to grow, continue to learn from competitions and we are really highballing the Pac-12 Championships and the NCAA Championships at the end of the season.”
At Saturday’s lower stakes meet, fans can expect to not only see veteran athletes, but younger Bears making their season debuts.
The outdoor season brings new field events including the hammer, javelin and discus. While freshman Audrey Jacobs competed in the weight throw this indoor season, Jacobs also has a strong record in the hammer. Before coming to Cal, Jacobs was ranked the No. 2 women’s hammer recruit by Track & Field News and took seventh place at the 2022 World U20 Championships. On the men’s side, junior Michael Gupta achieved the 10th best hammer throw in program history at last season’s Mt. SAC relays.
At last season’s Cal Opener, now-junior Justin Wirtz earned two podium finishes in the men’s shot put and discus. Wirtz also achieved top-five finishes at the Big Meet, the Brutus Hamilton Invite and the Cardinal Classic. For the women, earning a podium finish in the discus of last year’s Cal Opener was then-junior Jasmine Blair. Blair’s 56.67m throw was the second-highest in program history.
There are several jumpers to look out for this Saturday. Finishing second in the high jump last year was current senior Jai Williams. Williams has kept up the high marks with a first-place tie at the New Mexico Team Open and a second-place finish at last weekend’s Pac-12 Invite. On the women’s side, sophomores Toby Lai — Cal recorder holder in the high jump — and Asha Fletcher are jumpers to watch.
Back to the track, this season’s record holding sprinters Jada Hicks, David Foster, Aysha Shaheed and Gavin Schurr will certainly be expected to continue their momentum into the outdoor season. With the absence of the 60m dash and hurdles in the outdoor season, these sprinters will be preparing for longer events.
“Outdoor I get to challenge myself. I get to run other events. It goes straight to 100m hurdles, not 60m hurdles anymore, and then the 4x100m (…) so I think outdoor gives me more races that I am able to compete in,” said junior Jada Hicks. “I like being able to run a relay. I am a very team (oriented) person so I like to be able to do something as a team. The 4x100m would probably be my favorite event, but hurdles is a very close second.”
Transitioning from the mile run to the 800m and 1500m will be distance junior duo Garrett MacQuiddy and Claire Yerby who led the distance squad during the indoor season.
Although an official heat sheet has not been released, the team’s most highly touted athletes will likely not be competing. This includes sophomore thrower Mykolas Alekna, and seniors Camryn Rogers and Hakim McMorris, who will all feature in the upcoming NCAA Indoor Championship. The championship will mark the culmination of Rogers’ collegiate career as her outdoor eligibility ended last season.
For those competing on Saturday, and throughout the season, a key part of the team’s success will not only be their training, but also their team spirit.
“The thing I am most excited about is seeing good performance across the board (and) across the whole training group. To me that speaks mostly to the culture that we have, and obviously I am in front of that and trying to create an environment for everyone,” said Lefever. “I really believe that the culture we have and the training group are hungry. They are dedicated, they are working hard and they are cheering their teammates on.”
Field events are set to start at 9:30 a.m. with track events beginning at 12:30 p.m. With a not-so-warm welcome to Edwards Stadium, the rainy forecast may cause delays on the track.