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Men’s track and field expects big performances in Saturday’s dual meet with the USC Trojans at Drake Stadium

Junior Nelson Rosario and the Bruins will face crosstown rival, USC, Saturday at Drake Stadium "“ the Bruins' final home meet of the season.

Junior Nelson Rosario and the Bruins will face crosstown rival, USC, Saturday at Drake Stadium "“ the Bruins' final home meet of the season. Nathan Kwok

With in-town bragging rights at stake, the Bruins are set to take on the No. 7 USC Trojans in the annual dual meet Saturday at Drake Stadium.

Even though the Trojans present a formidable challenge for the Bruins, coach Mike Maynard believes the heated rivalry will bring out the best in his athletes.

“Within a rivalry, it does not matter what the rankings are because people on both sides will step it up,” Maynard said.

Maynard noted that his athletes have raised their level of intensity in preparation for the dual meet, especially after their loss to Oregon in the April 17 dual meet.

Maynard’s mentality entering this weekend actually reflects his strategy for the Oregon meet. The Bruins need to take advantage of similar events on Saturday that they did in Eugene, Ore.

Since USC boasts an exceptional 4×400-meter relay team, Maynard feels that it is vital to win the 4×100-meter relay so the Bruins do not lose too much ground on the Trojans in the point total.

The relay races can cause a big swing in the course of a meet because five points are awarded to the winning team while zero are given to second place.

Individual events award three points to second place and one to third.

UCLA’s season-best 4×400-meter relay time of 3:14.64 does not stack up against USC’s season-best time of 3:03.26; the Bruins hold a faster 4×100-meter relay time this season with 40.02 compared to the Trojans’ 40.19.

USC possesses an arsenal of talented sprinters who will provide a daunting test for the Bruins, but Maynard hopes that his sprinters can grab some points in the 100- through 400-meter races.

“They are extremely strong in sprints, so taking some points away from them in that area would be helpful,” Maynard said.

Sophomore Jamal Alston can make a difference for the Bruins in the 100 meter, as he has a season-best time of 10.56 in the event, sixth best in the conference this year.

Another key area to score points in is the distance events, where Maynard hopes his athletes will sweep the events and rack up some points, especially in the steeplechase and 5,000 meter.

An intriguing matchup to watch for is USC sophomore Blake Shaw against UCLA junior Cory Primm in the 800 meter. Primm’s season-best time 1:47.78 in the event ranks fourth in the NCAA, and Shaw enters the dual meet with a season-best time of 1:49.56. According to Maynard, Shaw will also face UCLA senior Marlon Patterson in the 1,500 meter, in which Patterson’s season-best time of 3:42.13 ranks ninth in the NCAA.

Maynard also feels that some of the lower profile distance runners can make significant contributions to the team’s overall performance.

Maynard noted that the field events are not easy to judge, but the throwers, pole vaulters and jumpers look to improve on their recent level of performance against USC.

Redshirt junior Bo Taylor enters the dual meet coming off a strong showing last weekend at the UCSD Triton Invitational, where he threw a season-best mark of 182-8 in the discus.

Redshirt junior Johnny Quinn also had an impressive performance last weekend, when he cleared 17-2 3/4, and he will be looking to improve against tough competition on Saturday. Maynard claimed that football-standout sophomore Nelson Rosario is feeling good and healthy for the long jump, where he has a season-best distance of 24-2 1/4.

According to Maynard, the Bruins hold a long winning streak against USC at Drake Stadium, so he wants to continue that tradition on Saturday.

“Nobody ever wants to lose a meet, but you especially want to win a meet at your house. We have our work cut out for us, but I believe the Bruins will step it up and keep that string of wins alive.”

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