Thursday, September 21

Women’s track and field looks to get even with crosstown rival USC Saturday at Drake Stadium after a disappointing loss last year

Junior Lindsay Rowe was ranked No. 19 in the 100-meter women's hurdles on Monday. Rowe and the Bruins will compete against USC Saturday at Drake Stadium for their final home meet of the 2010 season.

Junior Lindsay Rowe was ranked No. 19 in the 100-meter women's hurdles on Monday. Rowe and the Bruins will compete against USC Saturday at Drake Stadium for their final home meet of the 2010 season. Corrina Hui

The athletic rivalry between UCLA and USC has been a long and legendary one, full of ups and downs on both ends.

Last year, in the annual USC-UCLA women’s track and field dual meet, the Trojans bettered the visiting Bruins, handing UCLA a defeat that is still lingering above the Bruins’ heads today.

But this year’s meet could prove to be a different story because the Bruins will have a home-field advantage in Drake Stadium on Saturday.

The Bruins have had success this year in multiple events but will need an all-around effort from the team if they want to bring home the crosstown bragging rights.

They have dominated the pole vault throughout the outdoor season. Led by sophomore Tori Pena and senior Katy Viuf, the Bruins have the edge over USC in this category. Viuf and Pena hold the second and third best height clearances in the Pac 10 this year with jumps of 14-2 and 14-1 1/4, respectively. With no athlete from USC posting a clearance above 13-1 3/4 this year, the Bruins should pick up some much-needed points in the event.

Both the Bruins and Trojans have talented sprinters and distance runners, and the events will put each side’s runners to the test.

One of the more promising matchups in the running events will be in the hurdles. Junior Lindsay Rowe has put together an impressive outdoor season and will lead the Bruins in the hurdles this weekend. Just recently, at the Tom Jones Memorial Classic in Florida, Rowe ran a lifetime best 13.36 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles. Matching up against her is USC senior Shalina Clarke, who currently holds the second-best 100-meter hurdles time posted in the Pac-10 this year with 13.21. To make things even more interesting, Rowe’s time posted in Florida puts her just behind Clarke and into the third best time of the year in the Pac-10.

The tough competition the Bruins will face is something distance coach Forest Braden feels the team needs.

“When they’re in a challenge like this with their backs up against the wall, that’s where great athletes show up. … This is the time of the year where great athletes shine,” Braden said. “We’re expecting our big dogs to hit their form and get the job done.”

Two of UCLA’s “big dogs” who have excelled all season long and will provide some fireworks come Saturday are junior Shannon Murakami and redshirt junior Kelcie Wiemann. Both distance runners will compete in the 5,000 meter. While the 5,000m is not usually Wiemann’s event, Braden feels that both girls will show up to compete at a high level.

“Both of them are distance captains and team leaders. They’ve really been very consistent all year,” Braden said. “Kelcie, in the 10,000 meter, has had a great year and kept momentum going. … She’s a fierce competitor. USC has a great girl in their (5,000m) too. It’s going to be a battle between all three of them. I think it’ll come down to the wire.”

Whether or not UCLA will be able to capitalize on its home field is yet to be seen. Braden said the Bruins have been preparing for this day all season, and he expects everyone to put in an extra effort.

“A meet like this brings out the best in a team,” Braden said. “Athletes fight for the third spot, and every point matters. … Going against (USC) and being at home will add a new dynamic to it.”

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