The UCLA men’s track and field team has only had one jumper compete at the NCAA outdoor championships since 2004.
The one? Senior long jumper Austin Hazel, who placed 21st last year.
But after landing some of the top recruits in the world and making vital changes in practice progression and coaching staff, the squad is putting up impressive performances that could continue the upward progress.
Over the weekend, members of the men’s jumps team went 1-2 in the high jump at the Don Kirby Invitational in New Mexico, and finished in the top 5 in long jump and triple jump.
Hazel and sophomore high jumper Michael Burke have top-10 marks in the nation for the long jump and high jump, respectively, and are primed to make NCAA indoor nationals, barring the possibility that a run of superior performances displaces them in the national rankings.
And two new freshman recruits, should they recreate their successes in high school, would also be primed for indoor nationals appearances.
Freshman triple jumper Tobia Bocchi has a season-best leap of 50 feet, 10 3/4 inches, which is the 36th-best mark in the nation, but his personal best of 54-3 1/4 is, according to uclabruins.com, the junior national record, and would be the fourth-best jump in the nation so far this year.
Freshman jumper Isaiah Holmes is currently 24th in the nation for the high jump with a 7 1/2 mark. His personal best – a half inch higher – would be tied for the 19th-best high jump, but his high school long jump personal record of 25-11 1/2 would be the fourth-farthest collegiate leap this year.
“I was decent in high school,” Holmes said. “But now I feel like I have the potential to do whatever I can think of.”
The freshman was sold on coming to UCLA after an 18-mile scooter ride around Santa Monica and Venice with sophomore jumper C.J. Alumbres, and now that he’s at UCLA, he’s very appreciative of the coaching staff.
“Coach (Jack) Hoyt is a fantastic high jumps coach, and I feel like I’ve improved a lot with him,” Holmes said. “And for long jump, (Rob) Jarvis is an amazing coach.”
According to Hazel, Hoyt’s duties last year “stretched him thin,” due to the fact that he was in charge of instructing high jump, long jump, triple jump and multi-events such as the pentathlon, heptathlon and decathlon.
Now, Hoyt manages only the high jump and multis, while Jarvis manages the long and triple jump, Hazel said.
“This change was what the team needed,” Hazel said. “We know exactly what we’ll be doing each week of every quarter. Everything we do is jotted on a schedule and on a specific spreadsheet. We are now tracking our results based on how we are doing each week so we know if we’re getting better or not.”
During the team’s unload weeks, it does its most intense training, whereas load weeks are more tailored to building and getting stronger, according to Hazel.
After the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Track and Field Championships next weekend, the indoor nationals field will be official.
Hazel and Burke are in a good position to qualify, and while Holmes and Bocchi have jumped marks in the past that would get them tickets, nothing is certain except for one thing.
UCLA jumps has the potential to do something it hasn’t done in years.