For three long hours, athletes were forced to take shelter from a sudden rainstorm as the downpour halted action on day two of the NCAA Track and Field West Preliminary Round in Austin, Texas. But for the Bruins, this was just another hurdle to overcome in what proved to be a stress-filled meet.
UCLA sent 43 athletes to the NCAA Track and Field Preliminary Round, each competing for a ticket to Eugene, Ore., and a spot in the NCAA Championships. To earn that, the Bruins had to finish in the top 12 of their events. After three days, only six Bruins emerged as championship contenders.
“I woke up a couple of days ago with a sore throat, and I’m not feeling too well, but I’m glad I competed as well as I did feeling as bad as I did in this heat,” said redshirt junior discus thrower Julian Wruck. “As bad as the conditions were, I’m still happy with the result and going on to the next round. That’s what’s important.”
While Wruck was able to work his way to the championships amid high expectations, the preliminaries proved that, with the unpredictable weather and the high-pressure nature of the meet, season rankings were not foolproof predictors of the meet’s results.
Such was the case for No. 10-ranked junior pole vaulter Mike Woepse and No. 5-ranked senior pole vaulter Allison Koressel, who both ended up missing the cut as lower-ranked competitors outperformed the two Bruins.
“We had some big-time casualties, most obviously Mike Woepse and Allison Koressel not qualifying in the pole vault, and we also had some people who just missed out in 13th place,” coach Mike Maynard said.
“There were casualties by performance and just some difficult competitive luck, but that’s what this meet is. This meet doesn’t always go as smoothly as you might hope.”
Things not going smoothly ended the dreams of a trip to Oregon for many Bruins, but junior hammer thrower Alec Faldermeyer was just able to avoid adding his name to that list. Faldermeyer was down to his last throw after fouling on his first two, and his entire season rested on just one throw.
“That was probably one of the worst meets I’ve ever had in my life,” Faldermeyer said. “I was literally frightened going into my third throw, and I just did everything I could to get a fair throw and get into the finals.”
In mirror image to her male counterpart, junior hammer thrower Ida Storm had also fouled on her first two throws before qualifying for the championships on her very last throw.
Making it out of the preliminaries while not performing at their best became a recurring theme among the six Bruins who did make it. Many were just relieved that despite the pressure and the rough conditions, they were able to make it.
“It wasn’t my best, but I’m in, and I know it’s there,” Faldermeyer said. “I can obviously throw way farther, so I’m not too worried. I just have to do it when it counts in 10 days.”