Freshman heptathletes Tatum Souza and Kimmie Conner looked at each other with blank stares when asked what differed between the two of them.
They have the same class schedules, the same practice schedules and are best friends. They are also the only heptathletes on the UCLA women’s track and field team and will be traveling to Tucson, Ariz., to compete in the Pac-10 Heptathlon Championships, held today and Saturday.
“It’s a good thing we don’t live together because literally the only time we’re not together is when we’re asleep,” Souza said.
Their friendship began the same way many college friendships do. Conner committed to UCLA on signing day and a couple of months later, Souza joined her after finding out she could potentially have a teammate in Conner. At many other schools, Souza would have been the sole heptathlete.
Upon committing, Souza proceeded to do what many would: send a Facebook friend request.
After greeting each other online and exchanging phone numbers, Conner and Souza eventually met toward the end of their high school careers at a track meet in Fresno.
Although the initial meeting was awkward, their friendship budded at orientation and eventually blossomed once practice began.
“It’s so weird to think about it now since we’re so close, but at our first encounter with each other at the meet, we hugged and then kind of said, “˜Well, I’ve got to warm up now,’ because we didn’t know what else to say to each other,” Conner said with a laugh.
“Now, we’re together all the time, we have the same everything. You’d probably think we’d get in arguments and stuff, but we’re both laid back and get along really well,” Conner said.
Last year, the Bruins only had one heptathlete, Ryann Krais, who has now transferred. Souza and Conner marvel at how Krais was able to compete on her own, as the two friends continually lean on each other for support and motivation.
“We have our own specific strengths, and we always try to point things out to help each other,” Souza said.
“There are times when (Souza) would be good at something that I’m not, and I’ll be good at something she’s not and we’ll discuss tips and pointers,” Conner added.
This strategy for success has proven to be effective ““ Souza currently finds herself third in the Pac-10 and Conner fifth. Their only performances in the heptathlon came at the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner Kersee Invitational, with Souza finishing second overall (4927 points) and Conner placing fourth (4545 points).
“My goal this weekend is to set a personal record overall and break 5000 (points) but also obviously move up in the national rankings,” Souza said.
“I wasn’t able to perform as well as I wanted to,” Conner added. “I want to just improve and set a new personal record, and I know I can.”
In terms of goals this weekend, Souza and Conner don’t differ at all from the rest of the team.
All other event groups will be present at the Oxy Invitational on Saturday, looking to improve on their times and marks before their upcoming Pac-10 Championships on May 13-14.