Oregon has had a stranglehold on the Pac-12 Championships; the Ducks have won the men’s competition for six straight years. But after a weekend of field events in the books, this could be the year it all changes.
Following strong performances last week by senior and junior decathletes Dominic Giovannoni and Marcus Nilsson, respectively, the Bruin men are now in the lead and will have a chance to bring the title home over the weekend as they finish out the rest of the Pac-12 Championships in USC’s Loker Stadium.
“We have a great chance to win it. Oregon is sending in another good team this year – they’ve won it six years in a row, so they’re not going to fold,” said junior pole vaulter Mike Woepse.
“We’re going to have to take it from them, but we have a team with the talent and resilience to do it.”
For Woepse, a victory on Saturday will make him the second conference champion in his family.
His brother, former Bruin pole vaulter Greg Woepse, was crowned Pac-10 pole vault champion in 2011.
“I was at that meet when he won it. … It was a lot of motivation for last year because I wanted to win it back to back with him. That would’ve been really cool, but it didn’t happen – I came up short,” Woepse said.
“So now it’s just about doing my job, making sure I get the points for my team and hopefully joining him as a conference champion.”
The women’s team will also be entering the competition in a favorable position.
The team currently sits in second place with 11 points following the efforts of junior heptathlete Tatum Souza and redshirt sophomore heptathlete Kimmie Conner in last week’s multi-event portion of the conference championship.
“It was nice to see such great performances by our heptathletes. It was really inspiring, and I hope we can all follow their lead,” said junior hammer thrower Ida Storm about Souza’s and Conner’s performances.
With all the best athletes in the conference gathering to compete at once, Storm sees the Pac-12 Championships as a stage to face off against some familiar rivals.
“There is the USC girl that I am always battling with – she has a personal record right around my own. There is also another girl that is a few feet ahead of me that I am excited to get to compete against,” she said.
Senior pole vaulter Allison Koressel will be gunning for her first conference title.
Currently ranked first in the Pac-12, Koressel’s season best is 3.75 inches more than her closest competitor’s. Despite having an edge over her peers, she said she will not be taking the competition lightly.
“I’m obviously hoping to get the win in the pole vault, but there are a lot of girls that could have a great performance. It’s still going to be a great competition,” Koressel said. “I’m excited to jump and have a great meet.”
However, Koressel also believes that the intensity of the competition will have a positive effect on the Bruins.
“With the competition being so tough, it allows everyone to get even better marks than they’ve gotten before and everyone’s looking to have a great performance and to try to score as many points as they can,” she said.
The Bruins have completed most of their outdoor season schedule aside from NCAAs and have accrued a wealth of meet experience over the year. Woepse believes it is that same exposure that has hardened UCLA for the upcoming battle for Pac-12 supremacy.
“It’s going to be a fistfight out there, but that’s what we’re all about: competing at the highest level, and that’s what our coaches and this season’s built us for,” Woepse said.