For many, the indoor track and field season will conclude this weekend. For others, they’ll be trying to make it last another two weeks.
UCLA track and field will travel to the University of Washington campus this weekend to compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Championships.
The tournament is the last chance for the Bruins and other MPSF athletes to compete and solidify a spot at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships if they haven’t already.
“I’ll be qualifying for indoor nationals again,” said redshirt sophomore thrower Dotun Ogundeji. “Last year I was ranked 14 with an even lower throw than I have now … so I think I’ll be all right for my spot. My only goal now is to make sure I’m ready for this weekend.”
Ogundeji currently has the 12th farthest throw in the nation at 62 feet, 6.75 inches. His spot for nationals won’t be confirmed until after this weekend, when the top 16 shot putters from around the nation are finalized.
Five athletes would have to throw over his season-best in order to bump him from the top 16. Last year, he dropped from 14th to 16th after the conference championship weekend – only two spots.
Not every men’s thrower has as favorable odds, however. Junior thrower Braheme Days will have to put in work this weekend if he wants to get a nationals ticket and continue the trend of having multiple UCLA shot putters make it, as he is currently ranked 48th in the nation with a mark of 59 feet.
“Last year, Braheme, myself and Nick Scarvelis all qualified, so I know if this weekend (Braheme) pulls it out, he has a solid chance to compete at nationals too,” Ogundeji said.
In the multi division, junior Kendall Gustafson will compete in the pentathlon, which consists of five events – 60-meter hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and the 800-meter race.
According to Gustafson, this particular weekend should be an adjustment not only for herself, but also for her competition.
Pentathlons are for indoor meets only, and Gustafson and her opponents are more geared toward heptathlons, she said, which is the outdoor event containing the additional javelin throw and the 200-meter dash. She’s unsure what to expect of her competitors, but is feeling good in her events all around.
“Normally girls have one or two events they really bank on, but I’m unique in the sense where I feel pretty similar with my events across the board,” Gustafson said. “I’m really excited for this weekend. … Last year I had a torn meniscus in my knee, so this is the first time in a while that I’m finally feeling truly confident and healthy.”
Gustafson said she’s aiming to get 4,100 points or higher, which would qualify her for nationals, and to place in the top three, depending on her competition. Amalie Iuel, a senior at USC, won the MPSF pentathlon title last year with 4,444 points, and Gustafson sees her to be her biggest competition.
On the oval, junior sprinter Joe Herrera is 46th in the nation in the 400-meter race, well outside the cutoff for nationals placewise.
“I’ve worked really hard, so there’s no reason for me not to do well at this meet and with the competition there, they will definitely push me to do something great,” Herrera said.
Individually Herrera has some work to do to make the cut, and the UCLA men’s 4×400-meter relay team is in a similar spot. The Bruins’ best time of 3 minutes, 15.15 seconds came two weeks ago at the Don Kirby Invitational, and is well outside not only the top 16 but the top 50.
The team will be going up against some of the top relays in the country this weekend – Herrera mentioned USC in particular, which is currently ranked 13th. In order to qualify, Herrera said his split for the relay needs to drop from 46.98 to 46.4, but he feels as though anything can happen with the competition in Seattle.
“It’s a hard number to hit, (but) the faster the people in your heat, the faster you start out with them, and the faster you run,” Herrera said. “I think the sprint squad we have is really strong. We have the talent to do great things.”