For most of the UCLA track and field team, this weekend will be the last of the 2017 season.
The Pac-12 championship is the last meet that the athletes have to get their times and scores into the top 48 of the Western Division and advance to the NCAA West Regional.
The UCLA men currently have 30 individual performances that – should the results not change this weekend – would get the respective athletes into the next round, while the women have 14, but there’s bound to be some movement after Saturday.
Last year, sophomore Rai Benjamin made his season debut and nearly bumped his then-teammate Andre’ Chapman from making the regionals. While there are few athletes who are at risk for being bumped, there are many on the bubble who are a marginally better performance away from qualifying.
For the women, five athletes are within 10 places or fewer of making the top 48.
Sophomore Suzie Acolatse is the only women’s sprinter who’s currently close to qualifying for a sprinting event. She’s tied for 50th in the 100-meter dash, and as little as a two-hundredths of a second improvement will tie her for 47th, as it stands.
Freshman Cassandra Durgy is 49th in the 800 meters, 16-hundredths of a second away from 48th place. The women only have three people in the top 48 for running events right now, and two of them are from Durgy’s and UCLA’s distance team.
Sophomore Julia Rizk is 12th in the 800, and sophomore Jackie Garner is 43rd in the 10K. The team also could gain another placement in freshman Claire Markey, who’s currently 15 seconds away from 48th place in the Western region for the 10K.
The only women’s runner not from the distance team in a position to move on to regionals is redshirt sophomore Pattriana Perry, who’s currently 44th in the 100-meter hurdles.
The other 12 women in position to move past the Pac-12s are from the field events. Freshman Mikella Lefebvre-Oatis, junior Jessie Maduka, and seniors Torie Owers and Zaybree Haury are all in the top 10 for their events – the high jump, triple jump, shot put and javelin, respectively.
Within the top 30 in their events are redshirt sophomore Ashlie Blake in the shot put, redshirt sophomore Greta Wagner and junior Elleyse Garrett in the pole vault, and Maduka in the long jump.
For the men, Benjamin could be at risk for the 100 meters, as he’s one-hundredth of a second above a six-way tie for 44th, but most others’ seats seem safe. The sophomore himself has some buffer for the 400-meter hurdles, 400 meters and 200 meters, while fellow sprinter junior Leon Powell is ahead of him in the 100 meters as well as being 29th in the 200 meters.
Not many have the potential to lose ground, but who has the most to gain is the men’s distance team.
Sophomore George Gleason and freshman Garrett Reynolds are less than a half-second away from moving into the top 48 in the 1500, and senior Jonah Diaz is about six seconds away from qualifying for the 10K.
UCLA already has three runners in the top 40 for the 1500 and three more within the top 41 for the 5000 meters. Redshirt senior Austin O’Neil, the highest-ranked Western Division distance runner, is also fourth in the 3000 steeple.
Like last year, however, the top Bruin for the men hails from the shot put. Sophomore Dotun Ogundeji’s throw of 20.19 meters stands second only to Colorado State’s Mostafa Hassan in the Western Division.
Freshman Nate Esparza also is 10th, after a season-best throw at the USC dual meet two weeks ago, and is gunning for the Pac-12 shot put title.
“Individually I would like to win the shot put,” Esparza said. “As a team I think everyone wants to do their best and score as many points as they can to provide for the team and get a team championship.”