The UCLA women’s track and field team will be sending 11 athletes and a relay team to Eugene, Ore., today through Saturday for the NCAA Preliminary Round, down from the 16 Bruins they sent to compete last year.
Individual athletes will compete in seven different events along with a 4×400 meter relay team, which boasts a best time that is slightly faster than that of last year’s qualifying team.
Finishing in the top 12 of an event will result in advancement to the NCAA Championships that will be held in two weeks in Des Moines, Iowa.
Several Bruins will be returning to Preliminaries, including senior hurdler Lindsay Rowe, who successfully qualified last year and advanced to the Championships, where she placed 19th with a time of 13.42 seconds in the 100m hurdles.
Senior sprinter Ashlea McLaughlin will also be making a return trip to the Preliminary Round. McLaughlin barely missed qualification for the title meet last year, finishing 13th in the 400m. She is currently ranked No. 22 in NCAA competitions thus far.
In the same event, senior sprinter Joy Eaton comes in with the 14th best time in the nation, besting McLaughlin by .25 seconds.
McLaughlin is also part of the experienced No. 18 4×400m relay team that returns two other members, Eaton and redshirt sophomore Briana Barlow. Sophomore hurdler Turquoise Thompson will be anchoring the team as the fourth member.
Thompson was unable to compete at last season’s Preliminary Round because of a hamstring injury.
Thompson will also be competing in the 400m hurdles. Like McLaughlin, Thompson was one spot removed from advancing to the NCAA Championships last year, as she finished 13th with a time of 58.25 seconds. Heading into that competition, Thompson was ranked ninth in the country until she sustained a hamstring injury in the middle of the race. This year, Thompson emerges as the No. 3 athlete in the nation at the event.
The highest-ranked athlete representing the Bruins in the pole vault is redshirt junior Tori Anthony, who is currently tied for No. 23 in the nation with a season-best clearance of 13 feet, 7.25 inches. Although she redshirted last year’s outdoor season, Anthony has had experience in the NCAA Championships. In the 2008 outdoor season, Anthony tied for 15th in the finals with a clearance of 13″“1.50.
Taking the competition by storm this season is the Bruins’ freshman throwing sensation Ida Storm. Ranked 10th in NCAA competition, Storm will be competing in her first NCAA Championships with an automatic bid and will look to build on her season-best throw of 209-0, achieved at the Pac-10 Championships held earlier this month.
Compiled by Chris Nguyen, Bruin Sports contributor.