Earning first, second or third place in any single event could make a huge difference. It could mean leaving a meet with a satisfied feeling, or having to wonder if jumping a few centimeters higher or running a few tenths of a second faster would have changed the outcome.
The Bruins got off to a slow, rainy start in a double dual meet against Tennessee and Washington State on Saturday. Both the men and women’s track and field teams had a mixed bag, with both teams winning one but dropping the other.
In the first home meet of the outdoor season, the UCLA women’s team beat Washington State 82-81, but was dominated by Tennessee with a score of 97-66.
The men’s squad clinched the 110-48 win against Tennessee, but fell to Washington State in the final minutes of the meet, finishing with an 85.50-77.50 loss.
“I don’t like losing, but if we don’t ever take the risk of putting it on the line, then we also don’t win,” coach Mike Maynard said. “And that’s what I’m trying to teach (the team). Not losing is not the same as winning.”
The men’s team had not lost a single home meet since 2010, and the crowd could feel the pressure the team was under.
With UCLA and Washington State matching each other event by event all afternoon, it was the final race of the meet, the 4×400 meter relay, that eventually determined the winner.
In an extremely close race, the Cougars’ anchor beat out freshman sprinter Pete Lauderdale’s efforts by half a stride.
“We were in it right till the end, and we fought hard, even to the final step of the 4×4,” Maynard said.
Per usual, a standout for the Bruins was three-time All-American thrower Alec Faldermeyer, who shattered the previous meet record and the UCLA sophomore class record with a tremendous throw of 221 feet, 1 inch that won the event by about 43 feet.
“Right now, we’re still training through all these meets,” said Faldermeyer, who is now ranked second in the NCAA. “I’m not really trying to peak for right now, but I’m happy with how far we’ve gotten.”
Feeding off of her second-place win in the NCAA Indoor Championships, All-American sophomore Ida Storm threw a lifetime best in the hammer throw, winning her event and starting the women’s team off on the right foot.
“It was a good start, but there were a lot of (technical) things that could have been better,” Storm said. “I was thinking I shouldn’t get too excited, but I feel like I can build from this.”
Following the meet, UCLA knew that there was a long way to go, but Maynard and the Bruins were pleased overall with the effort.
“The beauty of track and field done correctly is that there’s a winner and a loser,” Maynard said. “And I feel good about the competitiveness of the team.”