The UCLA women’s track and field team is being realistic.
Typically seen as a dominant force in previous Pac-10 Championships, the Bruins aren’t necessarily looking to win the conference crown this year.
“We don’t have the overall depth to really battle for a Pac-10 title like in the past,” coach Jeanette Bolden said. “So our goal this year is to have as many regional qualifiers as possible and to really improve upon our standings individually.”
This season, the Bruins have faced significant injuries along with a lack of experience, with 27 freshmen on the roster. But Bolden has hinted at the potential of future seasons as the freshmen mature.
Although the team itself may not be able to take home the Pac-10 title, UCLA is looking to specific athletes to continue their respective reigns.
“I want to defend my (100-meter hurdles) championship and get it one more time,” senior hurdler Lindsay Rowe said.
“The USC-UCLA dual meet was the first race (Rowe) had in three weeks, and she had only been training for a week prior to that,” Bolden said. “I know she really wants to get back to defending her title.”
Another Bruin looking to defend her event crown is sophomore hurdler Turquoise Thompson. Two weeks ago at the USC dual meet, Bolden dubbed Thompson as the star athlete out of the men’s and women’s teams. Thompson is ranked No. 20 nationally in the 400m and No. 2 in the 400m hurdles.
“As a freshman, she wanted to see herself as another Sheena Johnson, who won four Pac-10 titles in a row in the 400m hurdles,” Bolden said of Thompson.
Senior sprinter Ashlea McLaughlin is coming off of an impressive week. She was named the Pac-10 women’s track athlete of the week and had a personal best in the 400m at Saturday’s Oxy Invitational, catapulting her to No. 14 nationally.
“I’m hoping to peak a little bit later, which would mean strong performances at Pac-10s, regionals and nationals,” McLaughlin said.
So far, five Pac-10 teams are ranked in the top 25 spots in NCAA competitions. The Bruins are not among those five but sit at No. 31 in the national rankings. Even with the seemingly daunting competition, UCLA remains poised.
“At the end of the day, it’s just another meet,” Rowe said. “It’s just another meet in preparation for NCAAs.”