A handful of UCLA track and field athletes are moving on to the NCAA regional May 25, but some Bruins ended their season early because of unexpected bumps to their rankings.
In order to compete in the NCAA regional, each athlete must be ranked within the top 48 in the region.
UCLA had more than 25 athletes in secure spots to qualify for the regional before the Pac-12 championships. However, some UCLA athletes were on the cusp heading into last weekend’s meet, and after the regionals heat sheets were posted Wednesday, these athletes now know where they stand.
For sophomore distance runner Jackie Garner, her season-best performance of 34 minutes, 58.47 seconds ranked 43rd in the 10K regionally less than a week ago. However, after the weekend, over 10 new runners had better times in her event. Their times bumped her to 59th, thus making her unable to move on to the regional.
Although coming up short for the regional by not improving her time at the Pac-12s, Garner has learned a lot throughout the course of this season that she will incorporate into her future races.
“I’ve learned that going into a race you have to look to compete rather than focusing on running a specific time. When you compete the time will follow,” Garner said. “I was too hung up on times that I freaked out when the girls in front of me were going out at the pace of my 5K PR. … I thought if I kept up with them, I would end up dying.”
According to Garner, looking back, she would rather have competed and burned out in order to possibly snag a qualifying time.
Garner’s distance teammate, freshman Cassandra Durgy, fell to 52nd regionally in the 800-meter after she also did not improve her time.
After the April 30 USC vs. UCLA dual meet, Durgy was within the top 48 with a time of 2:08.00. Durgy’s time is under four seconds short of the University of Washington’s Hannah Derby, currently ranked 10th in the nation.
Although redshirt sophomore thrower Ashlie Blake advanced to the regional in the shot put, she got bumped in the discus.
Blake, who fell to 60th in the discus, had her season best come at the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Invitational on March 25, but over 15 athletes posted their own season bests at the Pac-12 championships, resulting in her getting bumped.
“In a way, I was disappointed, only because I know I am a better discus thrower than what I had been doing, but I’m also not (disappointed) because I’ve been progressing in the discus since I got to college,” Blake said.
According to Blake, it would have been nice to advance in more than one event but now she does not have the added pressure of two events, allowing her to focus all her efforts on the shot put.
On the men’s side, senior distance runner Jonah Diaz ended his UCLA career only two spots away from making the top 48 in the 10K. He finished the year at 50th regionally, just a second short of Utah Valley’s Jason Lynch, who is ranked 48th.
For other Bruins, though they finished the season outside the top 48, they were able to secure a spot at regionals due to previously qualified athletes opting out of events.
Sophomore distance runner George Gleason, who is ranked 54th in the 1500-meter regionally, is now entered as 36th after 18 athletes above him declined to compete in the event.
Sophomore thrower A.K. Turner was originally ranked 51st, but after the changes to the lineup, he is now entered as the 45th seed.
To round out the UCLA athletes who benefited from the drops, sophomore triple jumper C.J. Alumbres was ranked 52nd regionally and, like Turner, is now the 45th seed in his event.
“I’m really excited,” Alumbres said. “I was at regionals last year … so I expect the competition to be high. Now I need to place into the top 12 so I can make it to nationals.”