Any good writer will tell you to avoid cliches. They make writing sound trite and unoriginal.
Sometimes, however, people get a reminder that cliches were at one point meaningful.
Two weekends ago at the Pac-10 Championships, the No. 22 UCLA men’s track and field team was given a powerful reminder of the ever-inspiring story of underdog taking down top dog when redshirt senior pole vaulter Greg Woepse ended up the Pac-10 champion, despite facing Washington’s Scott Roth. Roth’s season-best and personal record was more than a foot higher than Woepse’s.
Several of UCLA’s competitors are highly ranked nationally, such as No. 4 800-meter runner senior Cory Primm, or No. 7 freshman hammer thrower Alec Faldermeyer.
However, most of the 21 UCLA athletes headed to the NCAA Preliminary Round are either in the middle of the pack or just made the top 48 that qualify for the western region.
To these athletes, assistant coach LaMonte Vaughn has this to say: “Stay on the clock. And don’t let anyone punch you out.”
And with Woepse’s example, these athletes buy it.
“Throw further than everybody else, jump higher than everybody else, sprint faster than everybody else, find a way to get it done. … Just because you’re (ranked) 48 doesn’t mean you can’t leave No. 1,” Vaughn said.
One such athlete is redshirt junior hurdler Brian Law, currently ranked 34th in the Western region. To advance to the next round of the NCAAs, athletes must place in the top 12 in their event. Law, a soon-to-be graduate and Woepse’s roommate, feels keenly the momentum of such a performance.
“If this guy can beat a guy ranked significantly higher than him, why not the next guy down? Why can’t we all pull huge upsets?” Law said.
That’s nothing new to coach Mike Maynard, who has said all season that guys all over the team are ready to break out.
Having any of his athletes set huge personal records this weekend might surprise others, but not Maynard.
“Every year, somebody at the national championships comes from outside the scoring position and ends up either winning or in the top three,” Maynard said. “The margin between No. 24 nationally and No. 1, it’s not that big.”
That’s the mindset this team is taking into the regional competition. After all, UCLA has 107 national championships, the most in the nation.
“This program is built on championships, so when we put nationals on the schedule, we put all four days,” Vaughn said. “And that means we have to get athletes through this round. … We want to be at the top.”