Five UCLA field athletes took the stage this past weekend in College Station, Texas, facing the top competition in the country.
The Bruins ultimately came away with a pair of top-eight finishes and tallied 8 total points at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships, all on the women’s side.
Senior Jessie Maduka, the only UCLA jumper at the meet, continued her historic season with another standout performance. Entering the meet ranked fourth in the nation in the women’s triple jump, she broke her own school record, jumping 45 feet, 3.75 inches to take third overall and earned 6 points for UCLA.
It was the first top-three finish for a Bruin at the indoor championships in four years.
Maduka’s top jump came late in the competition, on her fifth attempt.
“When I started off, I wasn’t aggressive enough,” Maduka said. “Once everyone started catching up and jumping further, I got more aggressive and had better jumps the rest of the way.”
Coach Avery Anderson said that Maduka’s focus throughout the entire indoor season has impressed him.
“It’s easy to be concerned when it’s your senior season, but she’s bought into the mission we have and where we’re going as a program,” Anderson said. “That’s indicative of what she achieved at the meet this weekend.”
The other two points for UCLA came in the women’s shot put, where redshirt junior Ashlie Blake finished seventh overall with a throw of 56 feet exactly to garner First-Team All-American honors. This was a step up from last year’s outdoor championships, where Blake placed 15th.
However, Blake said that she fell short of her personal goals.
“It was expected, but not what I wanted,” Blake said.
According to Blake, some of her throws on the day traveled farther, but landed foul. Despite the scratches, she sees this as a promising sign heading into the outdoor season.
“Once I get my timing down, it’ll be nothing but up from there,” Blake said. “I know exactly what I need to work on.”
Blake’s teammate, freshman Alyssa Wilson, took 14th overall in the competition with a mark of 50 feet 10.75 inches, also well short of her personal best.
Had Blake and Wilson thrown equal to their highest marks from the season, they would have finished 4th and 6th, respectively.
A pair of shot putters also competed on the men’s side. Sophomore Nate Esparza and redshirt junior Dotun Ogundeji finished 12th and 13th, respectively.
This season, Esparza’s throw of 61 feet 7.75 inches was more than two feet away from the personal best that he set earlier, and Ogundeji was almost two feet short of his own indoor personal best.
However, the results from this meet still mark a considerable improvement from last year for the team. Four Bruins competed at last year’s indoor championships, but none finished in the top 10 and UCLA failed to tally any points.
As Maduka pointed out, it had also been three years since any female Bruin had scored at a championship meet.
“Eight points isn’t a lot, but I still think we’re definitely heading in the right direction,” Maduka said.
This was also the first appearance at the indoor championships for four of the five athletes, aside from Ogundeji.
“To have that many new athletes at a national championship meet for the first time is very promising,” Anderson said. “While we fell a little short of some of our goals, it’s still a huge step to be at a meet with four new athletes who have never been there before.”
Blake, a four-year veteran of the team, said she notices the stark difference between this year and years past.
“This indoor season shows that our team has come a long way from what it has been in the last four years since I’ve been here,” Blake said. “I feel like this is the beginning, and these are the first steps in changing the course of our program.”