In an unexpected turn of events, two freshmen nudged the Bruins up the board, scoring the first points of the Pac-10 Heptathlon Championships in Tucson, Ariz.
Hitting the heptathlon tenaciously, freshmen Tatum Souza and Kimmie Conner of the UCLA women’s track and field team rallied to place in the top eight at the Pac-10 Championships in Tucson, Ariz. Souza placed sixth and Conner eighth, good enough to give the Bruins their first four points.
But Arizona State took home an imposing 23 points, while Washington State and Arizona both notched six, serving the Bruins a fourth-place finish.
“I am excited for both of the young ladies. They were the only freshmen in the top eight,” coach Jeanette Bolden said.
What’s more, Souza competed with a bit of rust in her veins.
“Tatum has not played since the Jackie Joyner Kersee, Rafer Johnson track meet,” Bolden said. “She’s been sick and has not played at all.”
Conner finished the meet with a lifetime-best 4,798 points, smashing her previous best of 4,545. She also hit lifetime bests in the long jump and javelin throw. Souza’s final score of 4,906 was just a hair shy of her previous lifetime best of 4,927.
“¨Athletes compete at Oxy Invitational
The weekend also featured a meet at Occidental College which paraded all other event groups. The Oxy Invitational was the last meet for any Bruin not named Souza or Conner before the start of Pac-10 Championships and NCAAs.
Bolden said she was encouraged by what she saw at the Invitational, mentioning the performances of senior sprinters Joy Eaton and Ashlea McLaughlin, who both set personal records.
McLaughlin’s time in the 400 meters was good enough for No. 13 in the NCAA this season. She was the top collegiate finisher in the event and second overall.
“I was really happy about my time; all season I’ve been really worried I wouldn’t be able to break 53 (seconds),” McLaughlin said. “I was very relieved I hit it, and hopefully I can go even faster at Pac-10s and Nationals.”
The Pac-10 and NCAA championships are what it’s all about, and anticlimactic performances can instigate disgruntled summers for any athlete. But with a stellar outing at the Oxy Invitational now behind her, McLaughlin remains undaunted looking toward the future.
“My expectations for next weekend are really high. … I’m sure at Pac-10s we’ll put everything together,” she said. “I just know that everyone is going to just put together everything from the whole season and really compete well, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Senior hurdler and co-captain Lindsay Rowe also had an impressive meet, redeeming her lackluster performance at the USC meet. Rowe ran 13.28 seconds in the 100m hurdles, which placed her at No. 28 in the NCAA this season.
“Lindsay Rowe came back from a disappointing USC meet to run close to her personal best in the 100-meter hurdles,” Bolden said. “We had a really good night at Oxy.”
The Bruins will be in Tucson again for the Pac-10 Championships this Friday and Saturday, followed by the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, June 8-11.