Saturday, October 21

UCLA falls behind despite 7 wins

In addition to the usual competition on the track Saturday, there was another battle going on over the public address system.

Several Bruin athletes initiated some trash-talking towards the Trojans during post-race interviews with the PA announcer.

After the Bruins’ impressive victory in the 4×100-meter relay with a season best time of 39.78, senior Brandon Smith, who ran the anchor leg, had some harsh words for his opponents. The PA announcer on the field asked Smith if he knew how close USC’S Joey Hughes was behind him, and Smith replied in a challenging tone, “It did not matter once. I didn’t see him anymore.”

Unfortunately for the UCLA men’s track team, who had not lost to the Trojans at Drake Stadium since 1977, No. 7 USC snapped the Bruin winning streak with a commanding 96-67 victory. Despite the loss, the Bruins posted seven event wins and a couple of uncontested sweeps in the steeplechase and 5,000 meters, giving them plenty of material for verbal exchanges on the microphone.

Smith’s remarks were not an isolated incident, as senior Marlon Patterson continued the trend after his strong victory in the 1,500 meters. Patterson trailed teammate Alex Crabill, a redshirt junior, until the final backstretch, when USC sophomore Blake Shaw and Patterson began to battle for position. Throughout the final turn, Patterson fought off Shaw’s surges and out-sprinted the Trojan to the line, finishing in 3:44.62. In his post-race interview with the PA announcer, Patterson commented that he did not expect Shaw to make that final push.

“Shaw should have known better … He does not have that kind of speed,” Patterson said.

While UCLA’s athletes’ remarks seemed to suggest more personal attacks upon their Trojan counterparts, USC’s Brendan Ames spoke in a milder tone after his victory in the 110-meter hurdles. When asked by the PA announcer what his goals were for the day, Ames replied, “We will try to put down these Bruins.”

The post-race interviews with the event winners produced an intriguing atmosphere for the meet, as the athletes spoke directly to the bi-partisan crowd at Drake Stadium. If the trash-talk did not induce more heated competition among the athletes, it surely entertained the spectators, who reacted to the comments with jeers and chuckles.

“I didn’t hear (the exchanges), but I don’t support it,” coach Mike Maynard said. “Whether you win or lose, you should be a good sport. If fun and jest, it’s one thing, but we have to be great sports. UCLA has a higher standard, and we are not about that.”

Maynard was especially impressed with the late round heroics of sophomore Nelson Rosario and junior Jonathan Clark in the long jump and triple jump, respectively. Rosario won the long jump on his final attempt with a season best distance of 25 feet, which ranks 20th in the NCAA.

Clark similarly clinched the triple jump on his final attempt, as he literally inched out USC’s Manjul Wijesekara with a jump of 51 feet, 4.5 inches. Wijesekara had jumped 51 feet, 3.5 inches immediately before Clark’s winning jump.

Another exceptional individual performance was Cory Primm’s victory in the 800 meters, where he led from the start and held off a late surge from USC’s Shaw. He crossed the line with a blazing lifetime best 1:47.56, which ranks third in the NCAA this season.

For the first year coach, the trash talk and impressive individual performances were an introduction to how competitive the UCLA-USC rivalry can get. In light of other rivalries that he has been involved in, Maynard puts UCLA-USC at the top of the list.

“It is beyond comparison,” Maynard said. “Coaches and athletes are all really into it, and it is just fantastic.”

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