Last year against USC, the UCLA men’s track and field team was clinging to a four-point lead going into the meet’s last event – the 4×400-meter relay. At Drake Stadium this Sunday, the Bruins found themselves in a completely different position against their rivals – up by an insurmountable 48 points.
With the meet already clinched, it didn’t matter that UCLA was trailing by 100 meters in the event that lost the Bruins the competition last season. At the end of the relay, the final score read 103 to 60, giving the men’s squad a 43-point victory.
However, despite the dominant performance, the same trend that has recurred for the past several years continued to hold – USC dominated the sprints while UCLA prevailed in long distance and field events.
The Bruin men took a one-two-three sweep in the 400-meter hurdles, the 1500 meter, the 5000 meter, the 3000-meter steeplechase and the pole vault, giving them a combined 45 points in just five events. Other standouts included senior Nicholas Scarvelis and sophomore Braheme Days taking first and second in the shot put for a second week in a row.
Throws coach John Frazier has been part of the UCLA track program both as an athlete and coach. Having gone 3-0 against USC during his UCLA career from 1982 to 1986, the former shot putter wanted to emphasize the rich history of the competition to his athletes.
“Some of these athletes don’t realize that USC beat us for 33 years straight,” Frazier said. “After coach Jim Bush got the first win in 1966, we’ve been more dominant, so it’s good for us to get back on track after last year, but more importantly to have such a dominant performance.”
USC’s Adoree’ Jackson led the charge in the sprints, taking first in the 100-meter dash and second in the 200 meter only behind fellow USC sophomore Ricky Morgan Jr. who also placed first in the 400-meter dash with a time of 46.32. Jackson fortified his stronghold in the long jump, as the defending Pac-12 champion took first in the event with a jump of 25-04.75.
The Bruins recruiting class of 2014 featured several heralded athletes – two of whom achieved lifetime bests this past Sunday against USC. Sophomores Misana Viltz and Idrees Bernard took first place finishes in their respective events.
Viltz ran a 13.92 in the 110-meter hurdles, easily beating USC’s Marquis Morris who finished second at 14.98 seconds. Triple jumper Bernard was able to jump a personal best of 50-06.75 feet in his main event, just three weeks after nursing an injury.
The meet against USC marks only the third collegiate competition for freshman high jumper Michael Burke, and the novice could barely contain his energy.
“I was so excited I couldn’t really calm down in the warm ups so I had to take a lot of extra jumps just to calm myself down,” Burke said. “But it all worked. I think I could go to NCAAs and hang with the best of them. I’m going to go out and do everything I can to win Pac-12s this year.”
Burke jumped a career best 7-01.75, beating out sophomore All-American Randall Cunningham – the runner up at the Pac-12 championship meet last season.
New faces show promise
Freshman Carolina Johnson made her UCLA track and field debut, competing in her first collegiate 3000-meter steeplechase. The Swedish national posted a time of 10:36.12, good enough for second place behind junior Emily Scharmann.
Johnson was neck and neck with Scharmann for most of the race, before falling on the last water jump. Scharmann would go on to win the event and set a lifetime best and meet record of 10:23.11 minutes.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the day came from an athlete new to collegiate track and field. Redshirt senior football player Kenny Walker, a wide receiver, has been added to the Bruins roster, providing the track program a much needed spark in the men’s sprints.
Walker ran 10.67 seconds in the 100-meter dash, placing third behind Jackson and UCLA sophomore Leon Powell. He also was the first leg of the 4 x 100m relay, and gave the Bruins an early lead which they could not sustain for the remaining three legs.
The track team will begin its version of the postseason with the Pac-12 championship May 7 for decathletes and heptathletes. Veterans such as senior 800-meter runner Nick Hartle are looking to capitalize on the little time they have left at UCLA.
“Right now we’re just focused on getting as many points as we can at the Pac-12 meet,” Hartle said. “I know this team is probably the best I’ve seen in my four years here across the board, event to event. So I just love how badly we were able to crush USC today. It should be a sign of things to come.”
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Click here for full results of the meet.