Increased team morale for UCLA’s men’s and women’s track and field came from an unlikely source this season, as both teams combined into one program under the leadership of coach Mike Maynard.
“The men’s team is better with the women pushing them,” Maynard said. “There is a synchronicity with a combined team, and working together develops a real sense of camaraderie.”
Indeed, Maynard said performances at last Saturday’s team time trials were the best he had seen in his four years of coaching, with personal records among 400-meter and 200-meter runners.
“That practice shows the training level of our athletes is really good,” Maynard said. “At the Washington Invitational this weekend, I expect to watch a kickoff of how good we can be.”
The Washington Invitational, taking place in Seattle on Friday and Saturday, hosts strong competition, attracting most Pac-12 schools to attend.
Regardless of this fact, some of UCLA’s notable runners will not compete.
One of the top sprinters, junior Yusef Merriweather, is sitting out to rest from training and senior hurdler Turquoise Thompson is instead competing in the 800-meter to increase her strength.
Besides these alterations, junior pole vaulter Mike Woepse agrees that the team is looking good for the meet, and said he is confident he can take first place.
“I want to improve my approach and technical performance so the small improvements can add up to big ones,” Woepse said. “I aim to win every meet I jump.”
Despite track and field being a solo sport, Woepse also attributed some of the team’s prospects to its new gender-neutral makeup.
“No matter how high you jump, everybody pushes each other and it makes a good environment,” he said.
Freshman distance runner Lane Werley is excited to finally put on a jersey after redshirting in 2012.
“I consider this invitational almost a workout. I’m going there to get back into the racing mind,” Werley said.
Additionally, Werley remains optimistic about the gender-integrated team.
“It was the best idea to make Maynard coach of both teams to maximize team potential,” Werley said. “It’s good to have that unified feeling.”