The Bruins will send 24 athletes to this week’s NCAA Division I West Preliminary Round as the final descent on the track and field begins.
The West Preliminary Round, also known as west regionals, gathers the top 48 track and field athletes of each event from west of the Mississippi River to compete at California State University, Sacramento. Only the top 12 finishers in each individual or team events will advance to the NCAA Division I championships.
The women’s track and field team is headlined by senior triple jumper Jessie Maduka, redshirt junior thrower Ashlie Blake and freshman thrower Alyssa Wilson. All three represented UCLA at the NCAA indoor championships earlier this year, with Maduka and Blake earning first-team All-American honors and Wilson earning second-team All-American recognition.
In her first year competing for UCLA, Wilson has proven to be a triple threat, competing in the hammer throw, shot put and discus. She enters the week’s competition regionally ranked seventh, ninth and 13th, respectively, in each event.
“I’m a little nervous, but I’m confident with my practices, and with (throwing) coach (John) Frazier critiquing my technique, that I can go out there and qualify in all three of these events,” Wilson said. “I would like to go into (nationals) and finish top 10 in the nation in both the shot put and hammer throw this year.”
Sophomore javelin throwers Simon Litzell and Marian Spannowsky and junior hammer thrower Justin Stafford are some notable performers for the men’s team. Litzell and Spannowsky are currently ranked fourth and 13th among javelin throwers in the region, respectively, while Stafford is ranked 11th following his second-place finish at the Pac-12 championships two weeks ago.
Junior distance runner Robert Brandt, who is currently ranked 12th and 14th in the men’s 10,000-meter run and 5,000-meter run, respectively, also has a strong chance at advancing to Eugene, Oregon, for the national championships if his current rankings stand.
“I just have to take it one race at a time. I’d say the focus is more on the 10K – luckily it’s the first race so I can put all my energy into that and then shift my focus to the 5K,” Brandt said. “Hopefully I can get through on both. It’s going to take a lot of mental strength to take one race and then shift my focus onto another one.”
Brandt, who transferred to UCLA from California prior to this season, has helped to lead the distance runners in men’s distance coach Devin Elizondo’s first season with the Bruins.
“We’ve had a lot of bright spots (this year) – sending 13 guys to the conference meet and eight to the regional meet says a lot to the dedication of the guys in that realm,” Elizondo said. “Robert Brandt has been a pretty solid bright spot for us, 29:00 flat (in the 10,000-meter run) and 13:41 (in the 5,000-meter run) are certainly top-10 and top-5 performances ever for (UCLA).”
The NCAA West Preliminary Round will take place from May 24 to May 26 in Sacramento.