Track and field meets by nature tend to be very individual affairs ““ athletes compete against themselves to post the best mark they can, in the hopes of qualifying for Nationals.
Because of that, the UCLA men’s track and field team relishes opportunities to have fun, like this weekend’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Track and Field Championships, held in Seattle.
“This is a meet we always have fun at. It’s got a good competition atmosphere, as opposed to some of the other meets,” redshirt senior pole vaulter Greg Woepse said. “This is a scored championship meet, which makes everybody step up to that next level and get ready to compete.”
Those sentiments were echoed by coaches and other athletes, and the atmosphere at practice on Wednesday was focused but relaxed. The Bruins were noticeably excited about this weekend’s opportunity, despite the high pressure of the event.
Some of that relaxation might come from UCLA’s position as the underdog in this event. Rarely does the two-time defending champion of any event come in as anything but the favorite. However, UCLA lost several top athletes to graduation and now faces stiff competition, including MPSF foes No. 6 Stanford and No. 12 Oregon.
But assistant coach Anthony Curran sees it as an opportunity.
“Right now, on paper, we might not look like the winners; we may be top three or top four,” he said. “But if we can have a couple of athletes pull some great upsets, and we’ve done it in the past, we’ll be right in there.”
UCLA will certainly face challenges this year. The team will be without its top athlete, senior middle distance runner Cory Primm, who is being withheld from competition because of an unspecified injury. Primm runs the 800-meter and the distance medley relay.
Coach Mike Maynard said he doesn’t think Primm’s absence will be a big problem, however. Many Bruins have not put up their desired marks, making the MPSF Championships all the more of an opportune time to do so.
“We have a short indoor season, so this is the time that they should really come out of their shell, really step it forward,” Maynard said.
Among the Bruins that Maynard expects to take that next step are sophomore sprinters Randall Carroll and Damien Thigpen, redshirt junior jumper Taylor Hobson, junior jumper Nelson Rosario and Woepse.
Redshirt junior pole vaulter Casey DiCesare will compete for the first time in the heptathlon.