After nearly a dozen Bruins climbed the national leaderboard at last weekend’s home opener, UCLA track and field will be giving the floor to some fresh faces.
At this weekend’s Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational several athletes will either make a debut or participate in an event in which they have not competed before.
Freshman javelin throwers Simon Litzell and Marian Spannowsky will make their first appearances as Bruins this weekend.
Litzell boasts a personal record of 78.73 meters and Spannowsky owns a best of 76.53 meters. These numbers would slot them comfortably among the top five collegiate throwers in the country.
“I haven’t competed since August and I’m very excited about this weekend,” Spannowsky said. “My goal for this week is to look how I did in practice. The season, for me, starts with the dual meet against USC.”
According to Spannowsky, the last few weeks of practice have been dedicated to preparing him for these meets. He doesn’t look to break any records his first time out, though his personal best suggests it is something he is entirely capable of – his current high mark would be good enough for third all-time on UCLA’s top ten list.
“I’ll try to throw as far as I have in practice. Maybe a little bit further,” Spannowsky said. “I think anything over 70 (meters) for the first meet would be fine. Then I can build up on that.”
The throwing squad is not the only team that will feature athlete debuts. Several runners will be making their first appearances in other events.
Freshman distance runners Sarah Holloway and Sophie Baird have both competed for UCLA before, but will be running the 3000-meter steeplechase for the first time in their collegiate careers.
“They’re both talented … but until they put a full race like that together you just don’t know for sure,” said Mike Maynard, director of track and field. “I’m certainly hopeful, and I know that as these young ladies continue to grow they will be very good steeple chasers.”
Junior jumper Jessie Maduka will be competing in both the long jump and the open 100 meters. According to horizontal jumps coach Rob Jarvis, her victory in the triple jump last week is just a sneak peek at her potential as a jumper. She also came in second in the triple jump earlier this year at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation indoor championships.
“This season I am really focusing on triple jump … (the training) overlaps a lot, there are just minor technical differences,” Maduka said. “I hope that all the work I’ve been doing for triple jump is going to pay off for long jump as well.”
Maduka will also be running the 100 meters. In addition to the event being something she enjoys, Maduka said her performance this weekend will be used to gauge whether or not she will be a part of the women’s 4×100 meter relay team. The relay has yet to crack even the top 200 in the country this year.
According to uclabruins.com, the regular high performers like the men’s 4×100 relay team, sophomore thrower Dotun Ogundeji, senior jumper Austin Hazel and junior sprinter Leon Powell will also be present on Saturday.
“We’ve got strength all over on the track, from the 100 on up to the 10K … We just have a solid all around team,” Maynard said. “It’s not how you start the season it’s how you end it … I know we’ll continue to progress and we’ll be in the right place come NCAAs.”