Saturday, October 21

UCLA men’s track team aims for top 3 finish in Pac-10 Championships

The men's distance team will go to Berkeley for the Pac-10 Championships.

The men's distance team will go to Berkeley for the Pac-10 Championships. Alexa Smahl

At the Pac-10 Championships this weekend, which will be held at UC Berkeley, certain individuals on the UCLA men’s track team aim to capture needed points in their respective events, in an effort to vie for the conference team title.

The Bruins finished fifth in the meet last season, but coach Mike Maynard believes that his squad can move into the top three this year.

“I would like to finish top three. I do not know if we have enough horses to make a run for the championship, but it is certainly a good opportunity for us to show our strength as a team,” Maynard said. “The coaching staff and the athletes see this as the first step in the championship season, and it gives us a chance to compete against a top level of competition and to set up our performance for the next two weeks.”

In order to improve the chance of a high team finish, Maynard stressed the importance of key individuals excelling in their respective events.

As the fastest 800-meter runner in the NCAA this season, junior Cory Primm enters the event with a best time of 1 minute, 46.63 seconds. The ranking may favor him, but he will be in fast company when he races against Oregon’s former Olympian Andrew Wheating, who has posted a 1:47.71 this outdoor season. While Maynard believes that Wheating is definitely a factor in the race because of his experience at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the UCLA coach is confident in Primm’s ability.

“Quite honestly, I think that in the right situation, Cory (Primm) can definitely run with Andrew (Wheating). He has to prove it, but we definitely feel that he is capable of that,” Maynard said.

In the distance events, senior Marlon Patterson will compete in the 1,500 meters, in which he holds the 18th fastest time in the NCAA at 3:42.13. Patterson will have to work hard to place high against a very deep field, but Maynard feels that Patterson has great potential.

Junior Dylan Knight has an opportunity to place well in the steeplechase, in which his time of 8:48.84 ranks third in the Pac-10 and 21st in the NCAA.

After running an impressive time of 39.78 seconds for a victory against USC in the dual meet on May 1, the 4×100-meter relay squad will look to defend its Pac-10 title. At last year’s Pac-10 Championships, the Bruins won the race in 39.77 seconds, so the squad is right on pace to deliver a similar or faster performance. If the relay team consists of the same members who competed against USC, then three of the four runners from last year will compete again. Sophomore Jamal Alston, and seniors Stan Griffin and Brandon Smith will return with freshman Maxwell Dyce as the only newcomer.

In the field events, sophomore Nelson Rosario will compete in the long jump, in which he ranks third in the Pac-10 with a mark of 25 feet. Junior Jonathan Clark enters the triple jump with the longest jump in the conference this year, but he acquired this mark of 52-5 1/4 during the indoor season. Maynard likes Clark’s chances in the event, and he hopes he can replicate his indoor performance at a vital time in the outdoor season.

Maynard also believes that redshirt junior Casey DiCesare has an opportunity to fare well in the pole vault. Entering the weekend, DiCesare ranks third in the Pac-10 with a height of 17-7 3/4, which also stems from the indoor season. His best mark this outdoor season is 17-5, which ties for the 17th best height in the NCAA.

The Bruins have already picked up two points in the team competition from sophomore Trent Perez’s seventh-place performance in the decathlon last weekend, but the team has a tough two days of competition ahead to accomplish Maynard’s goal of a top three finish.

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