Monday, October 23

UCLA women’s track and field earns one relay team and three individuals spots in NCAA Championships

Junior Lindsay Rowe qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships with her 13.26-second 100-meter hurdles Saturday. She is one of seven Bruins with spots.

Junior Lindsay Rowe qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships with her 13.26-second 100-meter hurdles Saturday. She is one of seven Bruins with spots. Emily Tice

The UCLA women’s track and field team left Austin, Texas and the West Regional qualifying meet with only a handful of athletes moving on to the next stage to compete in the national championships.

The Bruins have had a small team all year and do not boast a very deep roster. In Austin, they had no qualifiers in the field events and their best finisher in the distance runs couldn’t get past the semifinal stage.

But what the Bruins did have going for them was some elite talent in the relays, pole vaulting and hurdles, which they displayed over the three-day stretch.

Showing off their championship pedigree, senior pole vaulters Katy Viuf and Tori Pena put up a strong performance.

Viuf completed a flawless event as she successfully cleared 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches and cleared the bar on every one of her tries.

Her mistake-free performance, coupled with the tall height, earned her the top spot among the qualifiers and punched her ticket to the championships.

Pena also had a great meet and almost matched her teammate’s perfect run with one of her own. She cleared the 13-9 1/4 mark, but she missed the bar once in competition, putting her in the third overall spot.

After finishing close to each other all year in competition and earning a number of points for their team, the Bruin pole vaulters are exuding confidence at this stage in the season.

“I think it was the meet we expected. We’re about going in there and getting it done,” Pena said.

Pena and Viuf have been to the championships before: It will be Pena’s second trip and Viuf’s third. While neither has placed in the top 10 at nationals before, their first- and third-place finishes in the tough western region should be an indication of how good their chances are at finishing near the top this year.

Another Bruin who qualified for nationals was junior Lindsay Rowe, whose blistering time of 13.26 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles on the final day showed that she can perform on the big stage. She breezed her way through the preliminary stages, and her final-day time put her sixth overall, earning Rowe her third trip to nationals.

Despite some success, the meet did not go off without its fair share of upsets.

Freshman Turquoise Thompson and junior Ashlea McLaughlin were among the favorites to win the 400-meter hurdles and the 400 meters, respectively.

But it was not meant to be.

Thompson placed sixth overall in the preliminary stages with a time of 58.97 seconds. But in the semifinal heat, it appeared that the hamstring injury that sidelined her for the beginning of the season flared up again, and she fell back to finish in 13th place, just outside the top-12 finish necessary to qualify for the championships.

McLaughlin suffered the same fate as Thompson and ended up finishing 13th overall, failing to qualify for nationals.

Thompson’s injury turned out to be more serious than expected, and when it came time for the 4×400-meter relay, of which Thompson has been a crucial part, she was taken out of the lineup. Instead, freshman Briana Barlow filled her spot and joined the veteran group that included senior Krishna Curry and juniors Joy Eaton and McLaughlin.

The team did not miss a beat ““ despite Thompson’s absence ““ and went on to run a season-best time of 3:34.08, good enough for an eighth-place finish and a spot in nationals.

Although the Bruins do not have a lot of athletes competing in the championships, those who made it through are excited to represent UCLA.

“It’s my senior year, I feel like I’ve put enough pressure on myself to do well,” Pena said. “That’s what everyone wants to do. It’s not unwelcome pressure; it’s exciting pressure.”

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