Thursday, September 21

Women’s track and field to compete in NCAA West Regional

Senior pole vaulter Katy Viuf, ranked sixth in the nation, will head to Austin, Texas, with the Bruins for the NCAA West Regional tournament.

Senior pole vaulter Katy Viuf, ranked sixth in the nation, will head to Austin, Texas, with the Bruins for the NCAA West Regional tournament. Daily Bruin file photo

When the UCLA women’s track and field team competes in the NCAA West Regional tournament today, it will play in a brand new format.

Instead of the old format where the top five athletes in each event earned a bid to the outdoor championships and the remaining seven spots were open to the top 12 qualifiers based on their national ranks, the NCAA has decided to simplify things.

Now, simply the top 12 qualifiers in each event will automatically earn a spot in the national championships.

This new qualifying system raises concerns that there will be no need to compete for a win and the athletes will just have to focus on getting through and qualifying.

But after watching the Bruins prepare for the meet, this thought of just merely qualifying seems to be the last thing on their minds.

“We had a really good practice last week with a lot of big practice personal bests … we’re feeling good and confident,” senior pole vaulter Tori Pena said.

Pena and the rest of the Bruin pole vaulting crew have been extremely successful this year. Pena and senior Katy Viuf should represent the Bruins in the national championships.

The senior duo has developed a friendly and competitive bond that has helped shape their winning reputations.

“My best competition is my teammate, so the fact that we get to practice with each other causes us to push ourselves.” Pena added.

The friendly competition between the two has been heating up lately and remains close as they head into regionals. Viuf and Pena now rank sixth and eighth in the nation, respectively.

One Bruin who probably will not have to worry about finishing outside the top 12 in her event is freshman Turquoise Thompson.

After being plagued by a hamstring injury that sidelined her for most of the early outdoor season, the freshman has been on a tear as of late.

After her debut in the USC dual meet on May 1, Thompson has won every 400-meter hurdle event she has competed in.

In her first season as a Bruin hurdler, she won her first Pac-10 title, posting a lifetime best time of 56.92 seconds. Thompson believes she is just now rounding into top shape.

“It’s a change of pace. It’s almost like mid-season for me because I didn’t do much preseason work because of my injury, but I still have room to go, (to improve).” Thompson said.

The team must adapt to the new qualifying standards. If it doesn’t, its season could end by Saturday.

“In the postseason we have to step it up. It’s where it all matters and what it’s all about,” Pena said. “We’ve stepped it up in practice so it hopefully translates into competition.”

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