To be a champion is the stuff of dreams. When athletes were still kids, they’d play in their backyards, dreaming of the chance to make the big shot when it counts.
This weekend, the UCLA men’s track and field team will get its first crack at that dream, beginning with the Pac-10 Decathlon Championships.
“I’m stoked, man. I couldn’t be more excited,” sophomore decathlete Dominic Giovannoni said. “I feel ready, my body feels ready; I couldn’t be more excited for how we’re going to do.”
With good reason, too. This is only the second time all season the decathletes will get to complete the full 10 events of a decathlon, meaning their bodies are well-rested. The last time Giovannoni completed the decathlon, he set his lifetime-best of 7192 points.
Giovannoni is one of four competitors the No. 23 Bruins will send to Arizona. The other three are junior Trent Perez, sophomore David Thomas and freshman Marcus Nilsson, who only recently arrived from Sweden.
The field will be strong this year, as No. 20 Oregon sends senior Ashton Eaton, a three-time NCAA decathlon champion, to compete for his fourth straight Pac-10 title. No. 7 USC and No. 11 Stanford will provide stiff competition as well.
However, the Bruins hope that sending four strong competitors, all with the ability to place in the top eight, will allow them to earn some points toward the overall Pac-10 crown.
And, if the training these athletes have put in means anything, the team can expect big things.
“Personally, I’m expecting a 200-300 point (personal record) and place in the top three,” Giovannoni said. “For these guys, just the same ““ I expect huge PR’s and placing throughout the top eight.”
UCLA hasn’t won the Pac-10 crown since 2004, but it is looking to reclaim that this year. Having tied Oregon and beaten USC this season, two of the three Pac-10 teams above UCLA in the rankings, the Bruins stand a strong chance of doing so.
Any points the decathletes earn this weekend will count toward the overall Pac-10 Championships, held the following week. The Bruin decathletes are excited about the opportunity to be the team’s opening salvo.
“We just got to go out, perform, score as many points as we can,” Perez said. “Take those easy points in the beginning, where most teams don’t have four guys showing up. It’s our chance to seize the moment.”
While the decathletes get to try and live the postseason dream, the remaining members of the team have one last chance to try and keep their dreams alive at the Oxy Invitational in Eagle Rock.
The NCAA Regionals will take the top-48 athletes in each event from the western region. Many of UCLA’s athletes are on the bubble, either just in or just out, and will need to post a higher mark to ensure their place, assistant coach Anthony Curran said.
“It extends your life, it gets you into nationals,” Curran said of making the top 48. “Regionals is really like the first day of nationals, in our minds.”