The weekend is over, and with it the track has cooled, the dust has settled and the fabled athletes either hold their heads high or heave crestfallen sighs as the 2011 Pac-10 Championships have come to an enthralling close.
The UCLA women’s track and field team was in action Friday and Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., competing in the hallowed Pac-10 Championships.
After a day of competition, the Bruins held eighth place and rounded out in sixth by the end of competition on Saturday, finishing with 51.5 cumulative points.
“We did a tremendous job; I think it was a fantastic performance,” coach Jeanette Bolden said. “We had (sophomore hurdler) Turquoise Thompson defend her championship. … (Freshman thrower) Ida Storm got in there and had a good competition, competed extremely well and almost won the hammer. I was hoping (senior sprinters) Ashlea McLaughlin and Joy Eaton would improve upon their standing in the region, and they did just that with two personal bests. … Overall, even though we got sixth place again, the performances were outstanding.”
McLaughlin ran the second-fastest time at 53.27 seconds in the 400-meters on Friday, advancing to the finals.
Last week, she was named Pac-10 track athlete of the week after running a seasonal best of 52.95 seconds at the Oxy Invitational, placing her at 14th in the NCAA at the time.
“Actually it was (senior hurdler Lindsay Rowe) who told me I received the honor,” McLaughlin said. “I was so excited because honestly, I’ve never received an honor before, and it is just nice to be recognized on that scale. It’s one thing to be recognized within the school, but the whole Pac-10 is just really exciting.”
Eaton came in at second at the finals in the 400m with a time of 52.61 seconds to garner eight points for the Bruins, while McLaughlin placed fourth with a time of 52.86 seconds, good for five points.
In the hammer throw, Storm chugged the competition to wind, as she notched a lifetime best with a mark of 209 feet.
Storm made sure to keep a steady resolve despite the high pressures during the biggest competition of her still-young career. Her toss was good enough to bag the Bruins eight points.
“This was the biggest competition I’ve been in thus far, and I had to keep throwing well under pressure,” Storm said. “I had a foul the first throw and still managed to do well on the second throw, so I feel more confident doing well under pressure now.”
Perhaps most stellar for the Bruins, however, was Thompson, who indeed defended her title in the 400m hurdles. She was undaunted throughout the two days in Arizona, scorching the competition and taking first place in her event with a time of 55.84 seconds.
Thompson helped the Bruin cause by claiming 10 points for her team.
“I didn’t think so much about defending (my Pac-10 title from last year). Every race I was just really hoping I finished healthy, and if I get first, if I defend my championship, I was pleased,” Thompson said. “I did really go out there and just give my all to try to do my best.”