It’s been almost a year since the UCLA women’s track and field team competed at Drake Stadium.
On Saturday, UCLA will return to host Tennessee for its first home meet since April 1, 2010.
“We’ve been competing on the road a lot, so we’re happy to be home, competing in front of our family and friends,” coach Jeanette Bolden said.
“It’ll be nice because we know the track, and we’re comfortable because we practice there every day,” freshman heptathlete Tatum Souza added. “It’ll be cool to have fans there, as opposed to places where we don’t know anyone.”
Despite the home field advantage, the Bruins will be facing a formidable opponent in the Lady Volunteers.
“It’s going to be a difficult track meet for us,” Bolden said.
“We don’t have the depth that Tennessee has, but we are young and talented with 27 freshmen. It will be a big challenge, but the immediate future looks bright for this weekend.”
Expectations will be high for this meet as UCLA tries to get more individuals on the NCAA qualification list.
In order to reach the NCAA Regionals, the Bruins need to place in the top 48 teams in their region, and with the advantage that comes with competing at home comes the pressure to execute.
The team will be looking to its already-established successful competitors for even more impressive performances.
“(Sophomore hurdler) Turquoise Thompson is running the 400-meter hurdles this weekend, her favorite event, so we’re looking for some big things from her for her first competition,” Bolden said.
“This will be (senior hurdler) Lindsay Rowe’s first opener in the 100-meter hurdles. Those two individuals have been running different events and haven’t run their specialties yet, so we’re excited to see them compete.”
Last year, Thompson won the Pac-10 crown for the 400m hurdles with a personal best time of 56.92 seconds.
Rowe has had continual success in the 100m hurdles, competing in the NCAA Championships for the past three years in that event.
An athlete who has enjoyed recent success, freshman thrower Ida Storm will look to add another exceptional performance to her resume.
“She’ll be at home now and will know the feel of the ring, which could help her provide even better marks than what she already has,” freshman thrower Jaycee Olsen said of her teammate.
Like Rowe, Storm competed in the NCAA Indoor Championships this year, finishing 11th overall with a throw of 63-2.
Ultimately, hosting Tennessee will be an important test for this young UCLA team. Just ask Bolden.
“Tennessee has an extremely good team, with rich tradition and a lot of depth. It will be good to see how our “˜babies’ fare,” she said.
UCLA will soon have to get used to being on the road again, as Saturday’s meet will be the first of only two competitions to be held at Drake Stadium this season.
Stressing the importance of finally being able to compete at home, the athletes have been advertising this meet to their fans.
“The athletes are out distributing flyers,” Bolden said.
“We really want the fans to go out and pack Drake Stadium the way it used to be ““ sit down, relax and see how we compete against some of the best in the nation.”