Wednesday, October 23

Decorated track and field thrower has potential to rejuvenate UCLA’s performance

Rising sophomore thrower Alyssa Wilson was the only female athlete in the country to qualify for the 2018 NCAA championship in three events: the hammer throw, discus and shot put. (Jenna Nicole Smith/Daily Bruin)

Rising sophomore thrower Alyssa Wilson was the only female athlete in the country to qualify for the 2018 NCAA championship in three events: the hammer throw, discus and shot put. (Jenna Nicole Smith/Daily Bruin)

The Bruins have recorded lackluster results in track and field in recent years, but thrower Alyssa Wilson could potentially finish her career as a historic squad member.

The rising sophomore excelled in her first season with the Bruins and could prove incredibly important to the UCLA track and field program’s history after her tenure in Westwood.

Wilson was the No. 1 female thrower at Donovan Catholic High School in New Jersey and received offers from programs across the country, including Pac-12 rival Oregon, which won women’s NCAA team championships in 2015 and 2017.

She set national and New Jersey state records in indoor and outdoor shot put and was the 2016 and 2017 New Balance Nationals Indoor and Outdoor Champion. Wilson had already represented Team USA twice before moving to Westwood at the 2017 Pan American Games and the 2016 World Juniors.

Wilson has been a standout player as part of the UCLA track and field roster on a squad that finished sixth in the Pac-12 Championships. In her first year with the Bruins, she broke into three top-10 lists and advanced to the 2018 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in three throwing events – the only female in the qualification field to do so and the first Bruin ever to accomplish the feat.

Wilson was the only Bruin to qualify in multiple events this season. She finished fourth in the hammer at 2018 NCAA Championships with a 66.99-meter throw – second-best in UCLA history – securing All-America honors. She also broke into the top-10 list with a 17.21-meter throw in the shot put, finishing sixth.

For collegiate track and field athletes, competition extends into the summer months on the international stage. Wilson rejoined Team USA at the International Association of Athletics Federations World U20 Championships in Helsinki, Finland. Wilson finished second overall in the hammer throw and reached the final rounds of the discus and shot put.

It may be ambitious to say that Wilson could eventually represent the United States at the Summer Olympics, but she is close to the requisite distances for an invitation to the trials. Leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics, Team USA hopefuls were given automatic entry to the qualification contests by hitting these benchmarks in throwing events: 17.60 meters in shot put, 57.00 meters in discus and 67.00 meters in hammer throw.

Wilson has approached those qualifying distances in competition, especially at the U20 Championships. She was a finalist in all three events at the competition and logged marks of 64.45 meters in hammer throw, 53.32 meters in discus and 17.02 meters in shot put.

The rising sophomore has had unprecedented success in three events and has ample time to further her marks during her time in Westwood. She was the first UCLA freshman since 2002 to earn All-American status in two separate events, with the last Bruin to do so being USA Olympic gold-medalist Monique Henderson.

For a UCLA women’s track and field team that was ranked outside of the top 25 at the end of the season, Wilson is a bright spot who has the potential to break more records and build one of the most successful women’s track and field careers in program history.

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Assistant Sports editor

McCarthy is an assistant Sports editor for the men's tennis, women's soccer, track and field and men's volleyball beats. He was previously a reporter on the men's volleyball and men's water polo beats. McCarthy is a second-year English and history student from Atlanta, Georgia. He is an avid Tottenham Hotspur and Conor McGregor fan.

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